Religious Knowledge, Spiritual Vision
 
Julian C. Lee Mickunas

 
 











YogaSutras.com


 

Introduction |  The YS: Path To God-Knowledge  |  The Summary Verses
Western Confusion About Yoga  |  On Brahmacharya
The Essence of Yoga |  The Problem  |  On Preparation
On Meditation  |   On Meditation Objects |  On Inner Divine Light
On Aum  |   On the 4th Pranayama
 |   On Samadhi
Yoga-Sutra Metaphysics
 |  On Siddhis  |  APPENDIXES

APPENDIX

Questions I've Received

I have sometimes heard White racialists (those trying to preserve the European peoples) raise this objection about this yogic path and mysticism in general: 

"A yogi or Hindu-type becomes inward, that would mean that he can't care about his race, work for causes, etc."

This is not correct. A man on this path continues to have duties, to know what his duties are, and continues to do his duty. If anything, it makes him more free to do his duty by disentangling himself with worthless sensual engagements, plus makes him more effective in his duty because of the freedom from addictions and their vitiating effects. This path also makes a man more fearless to do his duty no matter what it is. I think it also leads him to see with the eye of naturalness, thus he considers it natural for races to stay with each other; and unnatural to race-mix, etc. He perceives the latter (as I do) as a mere expression of sensuality by those who have jaded sensibilities and a disassociation with their natural psychology and roots. Those who seek the novel are those whose "eyes and ears have waxed gross" in Christ's words, and who continually paw through the material world seeking for thrills.

"It seems meditation isn't doing anything. It's not doing anything for your community, etc. It's a waste of time."

First, those who meditate become more effective at whatever they do seek to accomplish. Most men spend a great deal of time watching the news, or surfing the internet, or reading history books. To trade some of that time for a discipline that will give you insight into the origin of phenomena, plus more influence over the phenomena (instead of merely reading about phenomena), is a wise direction.I had a lot of experience with practitioners of Transcendental Meditation in Fairfield, Iowa. (I used to live in Iowa..) An unusual feature of their spiritual program is that one spends just 15 minutes a day at meditation. Some people spend more time on a crossword puzzle. (It might be 15 minutes twice a day, but I don't recall.) One of the outstanding characteristics of the young TM people of Fairfield was their external productivity and success. It seemed that little town was economically revolutionized by their presence, and a great many businesses were always being launched by these people. Many of their businesses thrived. These 15-minute-a-day meditators, the bulk of them young White Europeans/Americans, seemed highly creative and effective wherever they directed their energies -- moreso than the average population. Further,  they attributed their noticeable creativity and productivity directly to the meditation technique. The teachings they followed -- by Maharishi Mahesh Yogi -- contained a metaphysics that explicitly stated that this increased fruitfulness, success, and "coherency" came from their short daily meditation periods. None of it was happenstance. A small amount of meditation greatly improved their worldly effectiveness, and they even prosecuted studies to prove it.

The goal of human life is really contentment. What a good man wants for his people, finally, is their contentment.  It's only those men who have found inner contentment for themselves who have a true offering for their people. What good, anyway, is the preservation of our race if they don't know the way to happiness, contentment, and knowledge about the truth behind the external manifestation? Become the best kind of gift-giver and path-guide to your people. Lead them to the true water.

Lastly, an advanced meditator can do more with his mind in an hour than a material man can do in a year by running around and re-arranging the inert material world by egoic effort. One who has not pursued that may look askance and doubt it, but this is the prospect inside of true religious knowledge. One only knows by effort and discovery on this path. Better to know 2 percent about how phenomena actually arises (the good and the bad) than merely run around trying to patch up the phenomena externally without any genuine clue why and how it arises or how and why it changes. One legitimate motive for meditation is, in fact, world-mastery.

"Your path advocates celibacy, but we need to increase our birthrate."

My path advocates chastity before marriage then chastity or an attempt at continence after having children. Don't you know that if you can managed to be continent for just one month it will be good for you and revolutionize your life? Then there is still 11 months to get your wife pregnant. Try at least a week of celibacy! (lol) Must all men be unrestrained bleeders?

I always hear this from the chronically childless who spend their sexual energy in every direction but where it's supposed to go. So do you have a family yet? Do you have children yet? I had four. The average sexer-male today will have at least 1,640 orgasms between the ages of 20 and 50. (That's assuming a debacle, or male period, once-a-week.) Let me spell that out: One thousand six-hundred and forty times. Yet it only takes six orgasms to have a family of six children. What a big family is six children! And he can have them all between the ages of 20 and 30. 

-- Show me a man striving for traditional morality -- only expressing sex with a wife -- and I'll show you a man motivated towards marriage.

-- Show me a man who has sex only with his wife, and I'll show you a man having plenty of children.

-- Show me a society with a conservative view of sex and I'll show you a country with a high birthrate.

-- Show me a country that contains a celibate priestly order and I'll also show you a country with a high birthrate.

-- Show me a country that is liberal regarding sex, has porn freely available, and where the men are sexual libertines, and I'll show you a country with a birthrate that is low or negative.

The attempt at continence by young men = Marriages and high birthrates.

After a fellow and his wife have the number of children they want, the more the man pursues chastity the better father he will be and the more prosperous will be his family. Then it becomes a question of the spiritual aspiration of his wife and whether she can come along with him on the path to God.

Western Commentaries & Translations of Yogic Literature

Generally speaking one cannot translate or comment well on the yogic literature of India, and that includes the Upanishads, without being a devotee and practitioner of the religious subject matter they cover. This is, of course, one of the great flaws with most western translations and commentaries. Even with those ostensibly showing respect for the eastern heritage (or even ostensibly fawning over it), a background attitude seems to be: "We are westerners. We are more advanced. A lot of these ideas are antiquated. Certainly there is no real need for chastity. Besides, I like sex." Further, much of the attitude is "Oh, look at the quaint and charming little stories by these primitive peoples who didn't even have Ipods, carhells, and Prozac." But usually the moderne -- including the wide-eyed Yoga-Studio or W.A.B.Y. maven -- has no idea what he is really reading about, because the texts are deliberately obscure and often metaphorical.

Certainly if the brahmacharya content is thrown into the alley trash can by the westerner, and the bhakti content viewed as mere charming emotionalism of primitive peoples, there can be little perception into these texts. In truth, we are the primitives on a great many levels at this point. But one must be a practitioner to have insight into these profound texts, not an outside onlooker.

An outstanding case is how authors approach the Chandogya Upanishad. That text gives off the impression of being loaded with phantasmagorical ideas. It will snow the average western mind and he will be convinced it is, as Muller clucks, 'childlike talk.' But in almost every case these are very charming coded references to hard yogic phenomena, perceptions, landmarks, and development placed there by knowing sages. I will place a few examples of this from the excellent translator F. Max Muller whose scholarly translations of a great many Upanishads were published in 1890. 

Muller had an obvious respect for the texts as a mysterious culture for study, and he appears to take pains to translate the verses as accurately and truly as possible. But his footnotes in the bottom pages show his perplexity along with patronizing dismissals of verses he doesn't comprehend. Indeed, without understanding the inner sun and the inner udgitha, much of the Chandogya Upanishad is incomprehensible and appears like the fanciful talk of children. But it's the canny talk of sages:

Chandogya Upanishad:

"Now that light which shines above this heaven, higher than all, higher than everything, in the highest world, beyond which there are no other worlds [this refers to the physical sun], that is the same light which is within man. [Referring to the jyoti seen by the religious person.] And of this we have visible proof:

Namely, when we thus perceive by touch the warmth here in the body. And of it we have this audible proof: Namely, when we thus, after stopping our ears, listen to what is like the rolling of a carriage, or the bellowing of an ox, or the sound of a burning fire (within the ears). Let a man meditate on this as the Brahman which is seen and heard. He who knows this, becomes conspicuous and celebrated, yea, he becomes celebrated."

Now read Muller's commentary on the above. From the footnotes below:

Muller:

"The presence of Brahman in the heart of man is not to rest on the testimony of revelation [scriptures] only, but is here to be established by the evidence of the senses. Childish as the argument may seem to us, it shows at all events how intently the old Brahmans thought on the problem of the evidence of the invisible."

He had no idea what any of it was about. This is a deeply revelatory yogic verse for anyone pursuing the spiritual wealth of the Yoga-Sutra and moksha. It touches on at least four areas of mystical subject matter. It references yogic spiritual phenomena and perceptions. The "audible proof" of God refers to the inner blissful pranava, which sounds like the three thing mentioned. (Delightfully descriptive metaphors, all three.) This is not the assorted body-noise, heartbeat, or movement of bones one hears on stopping the ears. It refers to the pranava in some of its characteristic sounds. (For an avid aspirant, these are heard with open ears as well.) "We thus perceive by touch the warmth here in the body" is also yogi talk. It refers to the very noticeable feeling of heat, from cool heat to searing heat, in the body as the yogis nadis are purified and he receives a plenitude of prana. It does not refer to conventional bodily heat. "Let a man meditate on this as the Brahman which is seen and heard," refers, of course, to meditation on these inner divine perceptions. Why, indeed, should a man become "conspicuous and celebrated" simply because he notices the heat in his body or closes his ears and hears bodily noise? This is the way of the Chandogya through-and-through, as well as the other Upanishads. They are not childish fancies, but brilliant occult utterances carrying information for the God-seeker and yogin. 

Oh how long the wise sages of the east have had to bear these kinds of blind insults. To be thorough, let's review all that the verse revealed and which Muller missed:

-- The verse gives us the insight that the outer sun is the very same sun seen within by the yogi as bindu, with the implication that the experienced bindu is a proof of God. For those well-read it also implies that  both are  synonymous with prana itself.

-- It states that the inner pranic heat felt in the body is another proof of God.

-- It states that the udgitha (pranava) is a heard proof of God.

-- It gives apt descriptions of the nature of the Divine sound, in various forms, to give faith to the devotee and know that he is on the right path (rolling carriage, burning fire, a tone or hum like the ox).

-- In sum the verse is an answer to atheists. In my own life I have often said to atheists such things as this: "You reject God, yet there are so many definitions of God. Which definition are you rejecting? Yoga defines God as ananda or bliss. I feel bliss now. So by that definition I have proof of God. It also defines God as inner divine sound. I hear that sound, thus I have proof of God. You have simply not searched for God in any form, thus how could you have any proof?" Thus the Upanishad is a yogi's answer to atheism.

The westerner missed all, taking the felt things, and the heard thing, to refer to conventional sound and heat because he was not a devotee or a yogi. Similar insensible moments by western translators and commentators are endless. I will give one more from the Chandogya Upanishad. This fascinating scripture opens with these astounding statements:

"The essence of all beings is the earth, the essence of the earth is water, the essence of water the plants, the essence of man speech, the essence of speech the Rig-Veda, the essence of the Rig-veda the Sama-veda, the essence of the Sama-veda the udgitha (which is Om). That udgitha (Om) is the best of all essences, the highest, deserving the highest place, the eighth. 4. What then is the Rik? What is the Saman? What is the udgitha? This is the question. The Rik is indeed speech, Saman is breath, the udgitha is the syllable Om. Now speech and breath, or Rik and Saman, form one couple. And that couple is joined together in the syllable Om. When two people come together, they fulfill each others desire. 8. Thus he who knowing this, meditates on the syllable (Om), the udgitha, becomes indeed a fulfiller of desires."

This verse contains breathtaking revelations; is pregnant with meaning for the yogi and knower of Aum. It speaks of Aum as the essence of speech, and counterpoises that next to prana (breath). It is saying that the yogin should involve himself in an interaction between his breath (prana) and the udgitha (Aum). It likens this to sexual relations. Thus the yogi may breath into Aum or send his breath into Aum. Moreover, the yogi is bidden to draw (pranic) breath from Aum. This is related to attainment of the Yoga-Sutra's 4th pranayama (inner breath). In this way "speech" is interacting with "breath" like a couple. As with sexual relations, such interaction, or pouring Aum into breath and pouring breath into Aum, shall be fruitful. It directly bears on the Yoga-Sutra verse 2:51 on the state of kumbhaka.

The more outstanding aspect of the verse is that the yogi should apply the attitudes of bhakti in his handling of his breath and to the pranava. This bhakti attitude was indeed the attitude revealed by the avadhuta Nityananda when he spoke occultly of inner sound and inner breath. (See "Commentary on the Chidakasha Gita"). More could be said about this but that is enough. But I notice that a recent Upanishads published by Wordsworth (2000) and edited by an Indian, Suren Nakvalakha, completely omits verses 4-8. (See bold numbers above for all that's omitted.) The very best verses are omitted without any explanation. The sense is that the author did not consider them important, perhaps considered them strange, or worried that they were an inducement to "tantrik sex." Yet these verses, placed at the very opening of one of the most extended and sensational Upanishads, gives perhaps the penultimate secret of yogic development -- the bhakti attitude -- plus occult instruction in how to fruitfully interact with the heard pranava. All of this, moreover, directly bears on Yoga-Sutra verse 2:51 about the "fourth kind of pranayama," i.e. the state of kumbhaka.

My observation is that most translations and commentaries by westerners are as unseeing as Muller, cited above. One should read them with that caveat in mind and do not take all authors at their word or assume that they are authorities, no matter the publisher or the name. As the Yoga-Sutras suggests, only those who are devotees, ascetics, practice meditation, and brahmacharya will comprehend the Upanishads. 

Generally the real knowers are found among the Indians. However, this does not mean that an Indian always knows either. Now I have to, unfortunately, deconstruct one particular Indian so that yogins will flower brightly both on the continent of India and among the Christian churches:

The Commentaries of Sankara, Observations about Sankara

During the years that I first began to study the Vedic and Yogic literature, I entertained a natural awe of the author named Sankara, formally known as Sankaracharya. This was due to his attainments: establishing the swami orders of India and hermitages, his voluminous commentaries, and the legend surrounding him. Thus upon happening onto his commentaries or writings, I approached them with total respect and expectation. Only in my 54th year did I begin to bite down and analyze the writings of Sankaracharya, however. This started with careful reading of his Upanishad commentaries, especially the Mandukya Upanishad and its Gaudapada Karika insert. There I found that he was an inveterate proponent of the theory or metaphysics of Non-Dualism. By reading his explanations in the Mandukya Upanishad, I began to get a comprehension of that viewpoint. Truly, that is Sankara's forte. 

I had been reading the Yoga-Vasistha a long time before that, often with puzzlement but always with great satisfaction. I found that after exposing myself to Sankara's ND explanations, the Yoga-Vasistha was less work and I finally understood its underlying view. It began to effect a wonderful completion of my education in raja-yoga which started with The Gospel of Ramakrisha, exposure to my guru Yogananda, difficult reading of the Bhagavad-Gita, and utterly puzzled reading of various attempts (by various authors) at the Yoga-Sutra.

As I read Sankara I began to sense, you could say, his "personality." I could say humorously that he seemed like the ultimate Prig both in terms of his manner of explanation in which he parsed verses into tiny pieces with explanations of nearly every word, plus his continuous insistence that everything be referred "upstream" to his pristine non-duality. One gets an impression of cold wisdom, and I have once referred to Sankara as "bloodless." This because of his lack of bhakti content (except for his invocations opening and closing chapters). His predilection for the curt expression "that is being said" and "this is being explained" (as in "you want to ask this question? It's already been given, dummy!") -- added to the impatient schoolmaster impression. One thing the reader would be assured of: If you wanted to know how any verse might be hijacked, jerry-rigged, twisted, or illuminated towards a non-dualistic view, Sankara would always come through with the goods. 

As I continued to read Sankara I began to observe certain things, and to have questions about him. One observation was that he did not appear to reference bhakti much in his commentaries as an actual component of his path, even when he was commenting on a verse evoking bhakti and expounding on it would be expected. There were his opening and closing invocations, of course, which definitely express a spirit of bhakti. But bhakti was seldom brought in by Sankara as an actual plank of sadhana. It seemed as if these invocations were a kind of formality to him. I soon understood that Sankara would be classed as a "jnani," the sort Ramakrishna often referred to as following the path of "dry reasoning" or analysis. By reading Sankara explain Non-Dualism, I finally began to understand what this jnana path was: A simple practice of  analysis in which a fellow, by intellectually analyzing the world, comes to the conclusion that it doesn't exist and never has existed It is likely, indeed, that Sankara is the watershed jnani of all time.

 It was never really explained in this way: But my impression was that Sankara's view may be nothing but an assistant to pratyahara (reversal of attention away from the world); an additional administration to the goal of vairagya; an elaboration of Yoga-Sutra 2:15 in which the world is realized to be deficient. Sankara takes it further and propounds that it does not even exist! Could it be that by simply mastering this constant attitude of Sankara's, genuine yogic pratyahara would ensue and samadhi automatically take place? I never saw Sankara explain it this way, but this novel expectation seemed implied in his writings. Does it work? What about the need to actively direct the mind? Did Sankara's path of continuously deconstructing the material creation as non-existent become, for him, a form of dharana that led to samadhi? My view at present is that his approach is one component to a thorough raja-yoga approach, not a complete yoga. And yet, Sankara stands in the middle of every hallway acting as the expert spokesman on every aspect of yoga. Was he? From many of his commentaries it does not appear so.

I mentioned that Sankara rarely exuded on bhakti in his commentaries, yet he seemed to express it well as a happenstance of his bookend invocations. My guru was a bhakta. One of my early questions was this: Could it be that whatever attainment Sankara had came partly accidentally because he was actually a bhakta but did not realize himself the role it played in his own sadhana? I noticed that Sankarian commentaries were regularly included with all kinds of yogic literature, including the Yoga-Sutras. How would a decided jnani be especially qualified to give commentary on verses that dealt with devotion, meditation technique, and things not part of the jnana path per se? Was it all simply a cultural and historical development related to a particular activist's domination of his times, and one with an astounding inclination to write plus a need to assert his authority over the vast Hindu panoply of knowledge?

As I continued to read Sankara, both in scanning mode and drill-down mode, I began to be troubled with him. He appeared to give desultory or watered-down explanations of chastity (brahmacharya). At least in the translations I had on hand. I was particularly astounded by one comment in which he defined brahmacharya as "lack of sexual relations." That obviously left the door open to masturbation or who-knows what other hanky panky. It seemed a bit lawyerly to me. The hard edge defining brahmacharya, for any yogi worth his salt, is certainly lack of any seminal emission. He seemed highly varied in his responses to verses citing brahmacharya, unlike his attitude to Non-Dualism in which every single verse -- from references to apana to the Cosmic Egg -- were so resolutely and without exception brought back and laid on his cold, hard Non-Dualism table. This possible flakiness toward brahmacharya troubled me. I knew that the greater the flaw in brahmacharya, the greater the flaw in knowledge and attainment.

Finally when hitting Sankara's commentaries on the Upanishads I saw surprising signs that he often did not pick up on esoteric and yogic content in a verse that, to me, quite obviously such content. It seemed the more I read that he lacked what can be called yogic development. He was writing comments on texts like the Yoga-Sutra that were both picayune and detailed yet lacking in substance, like chaff without germ.

So many of those verses are obvious, slam-dunk affairs in which the rishis were clearly pointing to yogic phenomena and signposts, setting things of an occult nature right in our faces and easy to recognize by a yogi, such as the many barely veiled references to the inner seen divine light in which it is likened to a "lentil," a "thumb" (print) or an inner sun. At first I thought: "That can't be. He is being circumspect. He is wisely refusing to reveal yogic secrets." Yet often the entire verse was of an occult yogic nature which he would  ignore. Instead, he would spin up a great pile of near-contentless repetition of the verse in parsed form, while turning the verse to nothing but more signposts to his non-dualism in the end. Every verse became a new set of references to the attributeless Brahman. It occurred to me that a canny writer -- and Sankara was nothing if not canny -- could at least make allusions to the esoteric content in a verse. What is the point of a commentary if not to bring out, or at least point to, hidden content in a verse? It seemed to me that the mysterious Upanishad authors themselves were far more generous in revealing yogic secrets than the demigod of commentaries, Sankara, was in his ostensible elaborations of same.

I was not sure. The thought simply occurred to me. It wasn't something I wanted to believe. Still I found myself increasingly unsatisfied by the commentaries of Sankara, and as I went on, occasionally agitated. Then came a day when I broke out laughing when realizing that this glorified Hindu "acharya" may have simply had no personal experience with much of the verse content he was supposed to be explaining to us.

How could this be? This is most apparent with Upanishadic verses that discuss yogic attainments such as inner light (jyoti), divine sound (pranava), and the breathless state (kumbhaka). Now his curt little "That is being said" comments began to be slightly annoying. There is another one peculiar to Sankara, where he ends a commentary with, "That is the idea." The sense is, "Enough on this, class, let's run on." And yet in many cases he has said very little and even failed to even point to chuncks of chocolate, honey, and  glory in the Upanishadic verse.

But I continued to reserve judgment about him. I understand the vagaries of translations, how translators come up with very different sentences, and often get things plain wrong. Sankara was Sankara. Maybe I was catching his writings at certain developmental stages of his sadhana? I didn't own some of his major works. Maybe there were other texts that showed more mastery or gave more generously. And certainly, his development of the non-dualistic philosophy was masterful and very helpful. The thought occurred to me: Maybe he was not supposed to have the yogic perceptions? Maybe God kept him from those, to force him to completely develop Non-Dualistic Vedanta?

Yet increasingly I found him to be lying all over the Upanishads, sort of like a sloppy guest may spread out on your sofa or a lady with a shopping cart make block your way in the market isle. I found increasingly that I preferred to read the verses but not his commentary, only going to his commentary when a verse was confusing in mere terms of sentence construction, in which case he sometimes cleared up a confusing sentence at the trivial level of grammar. Even then, it seemed to me, he would fail to deliver the goods.

From there, I began to pay more attention to Sankara's self-written compositions such as "The Crest Jewel of Wisdom" and "Quintessence of Vedanta." These were a revelation because they revealed his basic worldview; showed the mental sea that he swam in. My impressions from these were two: He seemed like a kind of librarian of Vedic thought and metaphysics. This first touches upon another theme: Sankara seemed to have a personality we could describe as Cancerian. Normally in Sankara's commentary he is applying a rigorous logic and is happy to jettison many things -- even the knowable God-with-attributes Isvara himself -- if it does not have a place in the austere logic of his non-dualistic view. Yet at the same time he would often stop, demure, and proclaim that the statement of a Sruti had to be valid -- no matter how strange or illogical it sounded and no matter if it had no easy place in his lean system -- simply because it was a Sruti. I sensed there a Cancerian personality that revered tradition, and this was at odds with Aquarius-like traits that preferred the coldest logic. His pages would be chock full of every imaginable Hindu tradition, enumerated with glancing mentions, indeed like the report of a librarian of Hinduism. I found, indeed, that reading a Sankara text was like getting an overview of Hinduism from a professor of Hinduism 101. 

But although he seemed avid to assert himself as the pre-eminent authority on every aspect of yoga, he failed to deliver the goods for the purposes of practice. Just as noticeable to me: His verses lacked the ancient rishi voice; the tone and resonance of the Upanishadic verses which is astounding in combining  simplicity with pregnant meaning. He felt more like bluster than ancient wisdom.

My basic view at this point is that Sankara was a combination of intellectual, Hinduism collator, dabbler in many yogic traditions, politician-manager, cultural reformer, and master expounder of the philosophy of Non-Dualism. What he attained from this in truth at the end, I do not know. Maybe he attained samadhi from it. Yet I have to proclaim that his commentaries on the Yoga-Sutra and many Upanishad verses is desultory.

On the Sutra's verse about "the 4th pranayama" he was simply ad libbing. He missed the message of the verse and changed the subject away from mysterious kumbhaka without saying anything about it. One of many examples of mildly creative and typically assertional statements by Sankara when he really didn't understand the verse he was commenting on. Many other commentators since have struck, in their cars, this metaphysical road litter by Sankara on Verse 2:51 even trying to straddle it (comment on his commentary) in some decorous way, all to no effect, simply because Sankara was Sankara. For the devotee desirous to understand the verse, the commentary of Sankara is like chewing on pulp. Truly, Sankara, great as he was, would have served the dharma better, in a few cases, if he had not tried to comment on verses he didn't understand. Think of it anyway: Why should an expounder of Non-Dualistic Vedanta be the first go-to source for commentary on raja-yoga texts?

Why should we ask him to comment on bhakti, bindu, and breath?

Sankara's steady approach to verses is to relate every word and every idea to his non-dualistic view. This involves twisting and it involves ignoring their actual content. 

I noticed that Sankara is at the root of the view of renunciation and the life of the saddhu as found in India. He seems to be a watershed source for that. He definitely holds the monastic life to be supreme and has little encouragement for the householder except, in some cases, in his librarian role of enumerating Hindu lore and standards. His view of family is negative. He literally encourages fathers to abandon their children. I sometimes wonder if Sankara, in the way that he raised radical monasticism above all, actually did damage to the culture of India just as much as he expanded Hinduism intellectually and philosophically. 

Finally, at the worst end of it, I have occasionally wondered in my mind if Sankara may have been incontinent. Or even a homosexual. I raise again his seeming dissembling explanations of brahmacharya. I note that, according to tradition, he exempted himself from his own radical requirement to ditch family and his particular non-negotiable attachment was to his mother. He does not employ much father-positive verbiage. I note his dismissive and degrading comments about children. There is his characteristic priggish tone. Finally, there is the worrisome dissimilations about celibacy from a guy whose life involved traveling itinerantly to-and-from all-male households.

I am in favor of monasticism and all male monasteries. But I am also in favor of family and fatherhood. I do believe, moreover, that becoming a father matures a man, gives him the proper point-of-view as a protector of society later (as a genuine Kyastriya), and teaches him about the very heart of the Lord. One understands how Father-God feels by becoming a father. But then again, Sankara had no use for the knowable God-with-attributes, the emotional God. One cannot be a bhakta unless one has that same emotion of the emotional God. And this may be Sankara's greatest flaw. Yet, look at his invocations.

The man is certainly a mystery. But in the end: He may be more founder of monastic orders, champion of pan-Hindu regeneration, portal to the saddhu ideal, and even a kind of politician, but he seems not to have been much of a yogi or yogic adept. The mythic stories about him are likely apocryhal. Stories like Sankara cremating his mother with fire emitted from his hand are likely, as in the case of other religious traditions, something that cropped up as a mythology around an important man. On the other hand Sankara showed the way to understanding that pasts and past stories are all mental inventions and conditioning in the first place, so it hardly matters.

These are my honest impressions of Sankara based on his writing. In particular, and in summary, I think it is simply absurd to consider Sankara's commentaries indispensable or even particularly helpful when it comes to a great deal of Indian sacred literature. I think, in fact, that reliance on Sankarian commentary has actually served to obfuscate and clip the wings of many of these verses, or even invalidate some of the most fruitful principles of yoga. It may be that when this is understood, yoga will finally take wing in the west, and may even be revivified in India and blaze up into thousands of new flames.

Notes and Caveats on Yoga-Sutra Commentaries
by Indians and Westerners


The commentaries by M.N. Dvivedi, Rama Prasada (1890), Pandit Usharbudh Arya (1986) and Swami Harihardananda (1981) are among the best you could start with and they carry forward valuable ancient commentary. Indeed, the statement about Indian commentators should be qualified: Even the commentaries of Yogacharya Hariharandana are surprisingly lacking in insight, often featuring Sankara-like peripheral ramble or re-statement more than penetration of the verses.

Many Indian versions are valuable for their inclusion of ancienter commentaries of Vyasa and others. Sage Vyasa, incidentally, had better understanding of Sutra content than Sankara. As mentioned in the section above, Sankara is surprisingly contentless on almost all matters of esoteric yoga yet writes large commentaries just the same.

We can speak of the verse translations or the commentary. For verse translation the I.K. Taimni version called "Science of Yoga," common in the west, is very good, very clear. Likewise with the Englishman Trevor Leggett and his "Sankara on the Yoga-Sutras." His verse translation in "Sankara on the Yoga Sutras" is the clearest and most faithful translation or rendering of the verses that I have seen, which is an interesting fact. His book is a great work and very respectful. Leggett's text was published only in India and is out of print. But you will see some of its verses below. Taimni gave a commentary but not Legget. Though Taimni was an Indian, he was a Theosophist not a yogi and his commentaries reflect this. His creative thinking rambles far afield from the real content of the verses, more a bid to be an intellectual contributor to the Theosophy movement than an authoritative commentary on the verses.

A modern Indian guru who came to America, Swami Satchidananda, published a commentary that is is entertaining and charming, but which is amateurish in terms of understanding. One gets the impression he was an ordinary Indian or businessman in India who got the idea to become a guru in India on the strength of a hip kind of patter and folksy way of conveying certain yogic ideas to young people. The commercial artist Peter Max, who made 60'-style "psychedelic" art billboards for 7-Up cola, helped promote him. His translation of verses 2:49-51, analyzed here, ignores the critical content of the verse (no transcendental 4th form of pranayama, no real kumbhaka), simply parroting Sankara's near-useless idea of proposing (extrapolating?) the two breaths as "fields of inner and outer awareness." Satchidananda's commentaries on the Sutra are partially helpful but don't go deep. They are also overly expansive, all over the place, an eclectic mishmash, and even silly. He seemed to place everything he knew -- about anything -- on the table in trying to explain the verses, but that's not the same thing as understanding the verses. By the time he's finished commenting on the verse about the 4th and transcendental form of pranayama, the reader thinks kumbhaka is just an occasional incidental of concentration and not a firm handle for the mind or vital and essential yogic terrain to be conquered. I got the impression Satchidananda was embarrassed about the ideas of a breathless state of kumbhaka and transcendental "fourth pranayama." Swami Satchidananda is, I believe, a sincere yogi and a positive spiritual teacher for Americans, but he was not qualified to write commentaries on the Yoga-Sutra, at least at the time that he wrote it. God bless him anyway. This is by way of saying that Indian commentaries are best, but no guarantee of profound yogic insight.

Now, commentaries by Americans, whether posing as gurus or not, range from moderately helpful in the case of secretary-like recapitulation of the literature in good modern prose, to absurd and degenerate in the case of the ones that think siddhis are all metaphorical, or continence doesn't really mean no-sex.

The only Yoga-Sutra commentary I have read by an American that impressed me -- and I have read many -- was an obscure one by a California named Frank Bazl, whose version is cited here. He went deep into Indian yoga for an American of the 1940s. His translation (if it's indeed his) of the highly important verse 2:51 on kevali kumbhaka is the very best I've seen, even from among the field of Indians. Yet Bazl misidentified prana as the outward breath and apana as the inward breath -- a strange error. He also used "upward/downward" to refer to exhale/inhale which is opposite to the Indian convention which creates even more confusion. Due to this, his advice about pranayama could be potentially disturbing to one who might encounter his book without broader study.

Qualifications For Yoga-Sutra Commentary

Because the Yoga-Sutra deals with the highest attainable human states including the various forms of samadhi up to kaivalya and Dharma-Megha Samadhi, very few are qualified to comment on it.

There are two kinds of qualifications one can have for commentary:

-- Real experience with the techniques, states, and attainments described.

Thus far I have not encountered any Yoga-Sutra publication that appears to be in this category. And you can be sure this includes all the modern versions you see on the rack! The only writers I've seen who seem to have real experience with the Yoga-Sutra content are the nameless, mysterious writers of the very Upanishad verses themselves! (Of course, the Sutra verses themselves are another matter. Patanjali, the author of t he Yoga-Sutra, clearly spoke only from experience. In this way, Yoga-Sutra verses are a lot like Upanishad verses.)

-- A deep grasp of the ancient yogic lore and literature as relevant to the Yoga-Sutra content.

This would be the various Sutra commentaries themselves, other scriptural material, and the teachings of the gurus and rishis. M.N. Dvivedi (1890) is the only writer I have encountered in this category although his view is over-affected by Theosophical Society ambitions.

As to the first type of qualification, I have as yet to encounter a Sutra commentary written by such a person although Vyasa hints to be close. Not to say they do not exist, just that I've not seen a Yoga-Sutra commentary yet that is written in English by an apparent adept. There are reasons this is rare, described in the first chapter of this book. Now, one who was a realizer would not be, perhaps, such a good commentator if he was not a good teacher or didn't care to teach. In that case, the mere pundit and well-educated commentator might do you more good. The ideal would be, of course, the realizer of the sutras who is also deeply versed in the literature and yogic traditions, and who also wished to teach and had good verbal abilities.

In my view there are three types who are qualified to comment on the Yoga-Sutra:

The first is the samadhi guru.

This means yogis like Nityananda and Yogananda, who actually experience all of the states described in the text. We have very few of these because once a yogin begins slipping into samadhi he loses both motivation and even the ability to write in the coherent manner required. When the break-away into samadhi is attained, the religious person becomes very satvic and inclined all the more to meditation and samadhi, and less and less towards the world. His rajasic qualities become very attenuated. It is the rajasic quality that causes men to write books and teach. Witness how Nityananda managed to bequeath his above utterances to humanity quite randomly and unsystematically. Probably the most practical way to get Yoga-Sutra teachings from a qualified yogin would be if disciples living with him elicited his comments on the subject as often as possible, and wrote them down. Surely we must have some cases like that in India. Perhaps some texts like that will emerge for us in the west. One of the reasons I fought off samadhi when it was given to me, after requesting, as it pressed itself upon me like God's own hand, was my immediate understanding that I would be thereafter unable to write, carry on conventional business, or function in any normal way afterwards and that I would continue to slip into it once that barrier was broken. After my best writing is done, I will no longer be so inclined to push it away.

The second type qualified is the advanced yogi and 'adept.'

The third type is the one well versed in the yogic lore and literature.

He must respect that lore and literature and have some insight into its validity and significance. The best example of this is M.N. Dvivedi (1890). To a middling extent, I.K. Taimni the Theosophist, or the former president of India Radhakrishan who at least respected the texts and piled together some yogic lore in his translation of the Upanishads.

Who writes commentaries on the Yoga-Sutra today? Unfortunately, anybody who wants to and can get a publisher. Do I do it lightly? No, I have long resisted making commentaries on the Yoga-Sutra even when I felt I had insight and thought that many published versions were sorry affairs. As Ramakrishna and his disciple Master Mahasaya used to say "Is it a small thing?" At this point in my life I feel that I have an obligation to do so and I would feel I had neglected my people if I didn't. With all the absurd commentaries out there published far and wide, I won't be one finally accused of muddying the waters or putting his oar in where no help was needed.

My judgment about sutra accuracy comes from the delving into some 30 translations the past 25 years, constantly measured against a fruitful practice, plus cross-referencing to wider literature of yoga such as the Hatha-Yoga-Pradipika, the Upanishads, etc. As a Mars-in-Gemini who scans widely before making a final determination about anything, I always ask, "Does this tally with this? Does this comport with that?" My lifelong habit has been to chew light but long on a text, in fact for years, making many comparisons to various authors and other texts, before beginning to think "I might be starting to get some inkling of at least some aspect of what this verse is truly about."

Many Sutra authors are merely compilers of material and traditions. Others are theorists or philosophers intrigued with it and relating it speculatively with their other studies. Then many of the older commentators such as Vyasa are ostensibly yogins. I don't like to teach about what I haven't personally experienced. My assertions here about the Yoga-Sutra are backed up by personal experience, the most important factor of all for any commentor. And because of yoga itself I have no concern if 10 other commentors tally or ride the same boat yet are wrong. I'll proclaim it as errant if I know it to be so. It is actually astounding how much rubbish and chaff is in the commentaries by ancient Indian acharyas. But long live the Indian saints, Jai Guru!

In the end only other yogis of advancement,truly will be able to pick out the qualified from the unqualified when it comes to Yoga-Sutra commentaries. That's simply the way it is. In any case, this material is written only for those who deserve it, so everything will be self-sorting. Those qualified will benefit; those who know will know.

Now, for the reader, and only to answer the question that naturally arises and not because I wish to report these things (as I am already content with my worldly accomplishments and recognition), I will briefly summarize my qualifications to comment, 33 in count. This also for the sake of my Indian brethren of the great mother-country of God's religion, to pay respects and mollify their understandable chagrin at a westerner making statements such as some that I make here (long live Mother India, caretaker of the eternal religion and cradle of saints!) You can take them at my word or not. Again, this text is only for those who can attain it or who deserve it, not for myself. I won't even attempt to get financial gain by publishing it for pay.

Here are the 33 qualifications to comment on the Yoga-Sutra.

1) I attained a sat-guru, Yogananda, son of India. I say I "attained" him because that's what I did. He is stuck with me because I won't let him go. As soon as I really asked, He responded. 2) I was initiated in four dreams by two siddhas (Yogananda and Nityananda). 3) I received the true shaktipat and the quickening, not knowing, prior, what it was or expecting it. 4) I have meditated steadily for 25 years with the techniques of Yogananda and Nityananda. 5) I understand bhakti and laud it. 6) I hear Aum steadily with open ears. 7) I see bindu in various forms daily (for many years now). 8) I have experienced both savikalpa samadhi and nirvikalpa/turiya. 9) I have regularly experienced yogic kriyas. 10) Also supernatural perceptions and events in the category of siddhis, some deliberate, some not. 11) I have been studying the Yoga-Sutra for thirty years including some twenty translations and commentaries. 12) Concomitantly, I have maintained broader scriptural study and been a student and contemplater of the Bhagavad-Gita, the Yoga-Vasistha, the Vijnana-Bhairava, the Crest Jewel of Wisdom and Quintessence of Vedanta (Sankara), the general Upanishads, the Gospel of Ramakrishna, the writings of Yogananda and Muktananda and Nityananda, and other scriptures. 13) I was promised nirvikalpa samadhi "very soon" by the siddha and nirvikalpa guru Karunamayi as a response to my request in a personal audience. I had great bhakti for her. She well-received me, deigned to touch my head, and her promise came true in 21 days. (Her word always comes true. I begged for It to let go of me.) 14) That siddha, a divine incarnation of India, stated to me "You were born a sage," and This is your last birth," and she showed me special favor from the beginning, letting me sit right at her feet, where I secretly held the hem of her sari, and I saw white-blue light around her always. 15) Prior to this I already knew the inner breath, had experienced real kumbhaka in three different forms, and I stay in it often. 16) I have instinctive understanding of many Yoga-Sutra verses which continues to grow, including seeing the flaws in other commentaries and even scriptures, and even from such personages as Sankara while approaching the literature with profound respect. 17) I have experienced separation of my astral body (linga sarira) from my physical body, experienced the astral world consciously, and also traveled in that state. 18) I have practiced brahmacharya intensively for many years. (In terms of significance, it should be listed first, but it would be unseemly.) 19) I have taught same to many. 20) I have honored and defended India. 21) I have honored and defended Christ and my own God-heritage of Christianity, 22) After viewing Sankaracharya as a kind of god for many years I now see his humanness, his flaws of presentation, his lack of bhakti and yogic development, his outright errors in teaching, and his peculiar form of bluster and posing yet I view him nevertheless as an avatar of knowledge, of religious analysis, and the auspicious and holy arguments of non-dualism. (Some may feel this is arrogant and a strike against me, but I mean to correct Sankara's faults while affirming him. God probably kept him from yogic development so he could teach. His faults were minimizing Saguna Brahman, minimizing bhakti, failing to be firm in teaching brahmacharya, and being narrow in the 'technique' he advocated while dismissive of other yogas.) 23) Further, my commentary in such publications as this one -- for the canny and pure of heart -- will speak for itself of my qualifications to both write and present it. My words will speak for themselves. 24) I don't like to teach but feel a duty to do so.(Some may wonder why I don't comment on more Yoga-Sutras. The reason has been stated: I am disinterested in teaching and only do my bare duty.) 25) I prefer to be alone and usually am alone with God. 26) I feel a lot of bliss, and gratitude for the Yoga-Sutra, Upanishads, and other scriptures, and for Sankara and the rest. 27) Once three beings in a dream gave me an object, after visiting my guru's garden with devotion, that was then with me upon waking, in my pocket. It was an astral object. It was a beautifully colored stone that responded to my thoughts and had other powers as well. This stone, I came to find out later, was the literal Chintamani, the Philosopher's Stone of myth, spoken of in the Vedic scriptures. I had not heard of this at the time but only realized what it was through scriptural reading years later. I kept it only briefly, small and ignominious as I am. God only let me have it one day. It is because I was given the real Philosopher's Stone of legend, though only for a day, that I can rationally understand why I am able to easily interpret the difficult statements of Nityananda and the difficult and misunderstood verses of the Yoga-Sutra. This makes utter sense. Incidentally and similarly, by happenstance I became the possessor of a set of hardwood Indian dividers that are half of a matching set once owned by my guru Yogananda and used in his temple. (They can be seen in the margins of the page, at top.) I did not know where they came from when I received them and I did not seek them out. They came to me in a strange way and I came to know of their provenance in a serendipitous way. I have long meditated behind these. 28) I have spoken truth steadily for many years in all my dealings, 29) Three times I have wandered happily like a saddhu, and plan to do so again. 30) I have done many fasts starting in my teens, from 3 to 7 to 21 days for the sake of getting grace. 31) I consider myself to be doing the work of my guru-lineage and Mahavatar Babaji. 32) Finally, I was a devotee of Saguna Brahman in the form of God and Jesus Christ from an early age, and early began doing the devotional anjoli mudra in church like other Christian children of White-European heritage. 33) Other qualifications I will not speak of.

These are 33 qualifications to comment on the Sutra. I have flaws of anger, over-criticism of others (failure to always practice the 4th aspect of Yoga-Sutra 1:33), and laziness. But I am qualified to comment on the Yoga-Sutra, and certainly more than Charles Johnston, John McAfee, and a host of others who have sallied forth into that field long before they were ripe to properly do so. Pride is not my flaw, as I do this from duty and I state the qualifications out of respect for India and the desire that the best men and women have faith in both the Ancient Aryan religion, and in their Christian heritage which is related to it. I state the qualification from my desire to save my people. I stated it all for frankness and to give the possibility of the reader to analyze properly and apply due diligence. Calling it "pride" would be pettifogging by unimaginative imps.

There is the question of inspiration, but it should not be over-rated. There should be some element of "inspiration" when writing religious material and certainly comments on the Sutra. However, this should be more of the nature of insight, not of the nature of creativity or speculation. It should be strongly founded on experience and real knowledge. The best preparation for commenting on the Yoga-Sutras is long steeping one's self in Aum and in God's ananda.

Others will say that simply stating them openly disqualifies me on account of "pride." However, such is not the case and I write from the motive of helping my people, not pride. It is not done lightly and I resisted the urge to comment on the Yoga-Sutra for many years. It was the publication of Nityananda's words along with desultory comments that brought this out. I stated these things for the confidence of the reader so that my opinions about the Yoga-Sutra, Sankara, etc. might not taken as merely brash assertions. And of course some will disbelieve them, but it's of no account to me. Sincere people are the ones who can sense and feel sincerity, and these are the only ones I wish to speak to. My motive is to help the people of my own race and all peoples generally. I stated them because it is unavoidable that the masses of both India and the west will consider it improbable that a westerner could contribute to the Indian dharma. But, here I am. I didn't want the knowledge to be lost with me.

One other qualification of mine is that I know siddhis are real and not metaphorical or merely mythical, that the only place "beyond" siddhis is samadhi, and that it's arrogant and absurd to write a book called "Beyond the Siddhis" if you have neither siddhis nor samadhi. May God punish the ignorant westerners who pollute the dharma with their lust, materialistic outlook, and their assumption that the western mind is somehow qualified to "improve" on the rarefied knowledge of the Yoga-Sutra and the Indian dharma generally which they have not even touched in the first place. May this ignorant generation deluded by lust and the "delusion of technological progress" be swept away. And that's another qualification for me to write on the Yoga-Sutra. I am not going to dumb it down like a new-age technological westerner or try to fit it into a Cracker Jack box of their small minds. You can count on that. God is all glorious and miraculous. His material creation is also all-glorious and all-miraculous. 

And His material creation arises from no other technical or material cause than His luminous glory itself.

There is no one greater than the Guru, the sat-guru is all. Aum.

Introduction |  The YS: Path To God-Knowledge  |  The Summary Verses
Western Confusion About Yoga  |  On Brahmacharya
The Essence of Yoga |  The Problem  |  On Preparation
On Meditation  |   On Meditation Objects |  On Inner Divine Light
On Aum  |   On the 4th Pranayama
 |   On Samadhi
Yoga-Sutra Metaphysics
 |  On Siddhis  |  APPENDIXES

COPYRIGHT 2011 Julian Lee.
All Rights Reserved.
 
















The Chidakasha Gita
Of Nityananda and Commentary

 
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The Yoga-Sutra On Kumbhaka and The Breathless State
 
Julian C. Lee Mickunas


   
 



GLOSSARY

bhakti
Devotion, love of God, emotional feeling directed to God.
 
brahmacharya
Celibacy
 
Isvara
The Yoga-Sutra's word for God or Saguna Brahman, the Supreme Soul, original Person, all-powerful creator of the manifest universes.
 
jiva
Individualized consciousness, all the separate "I"s other than God, like the Christian idea of soul.

klesa
Affliction, impurity, taint


Nirguna Brahman
God as pure consciousness, with the only attributes being sat-chit-ananda or being, consciousness, and bliss. Human beings merge with Nirguna Brahman nightly in dreamless sleep, covered by a film of nescience or unconsciousness. Often when "Brahman" us used alone it refers to Nirguna Brahman.

rishi or rsi
Yogic sage, holy man of India, literally "forest sage."

Saguna Brahman
God in a manifested form with other attributes, such as creatorship, etc. Conceptualizations of Saguna Brahman include Vishnu, Shiva, the all western ideas of God, Isvara, etc.
 
samadhi
Complete stoppage  of thoughts and absorption in one of the levels of consciousness above waking, while in the waking state. Samadhi can be savikalpa or nirvikalpa. The first is awareness of the dream state while awake. The 2nd is awareness of the bliss of the dreamless state while awake. Mergence in God. Saguna Brahman or Isvara is considered to pertain to the dreaming state; Nirguna Brahman to deep dreamlessness or pure consciousness.

samskara
"Impression." A mark on consciousness "This happened, I was this." Similar to memory.

siddhi
Miraculous power.
 
tapas
Austerities, penances, practices of bodily mortification and renunciation.

virya
The inner energy or  potency that is gained by celibacy. Similar to the concept of ojas built up by chastity. Fundamental inner virtue from celibacy.

W.A.B.Y.
Women's American Body Yoguh