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Atma Yoga - The Yoga Of Self

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By Jayaram V

Atma yoga is the yoga of self. The aim of atma yoga is to unite the lower self with higher self and establish a divine centered consciousness. This is accomplished by bringing together the disunited components of the lower consciousness through the practice of yoga into one integrated whole and harmonize it with the higher self.

Discipline is at the root of all spiritual progress. It is hard imagine whether progress is possible in any field without discipline. While a certain degree of indiscipline may be tolerated in some aspects of life, in spiritual life there can be no compromise. Discipline is important in spiritual practice because the ultimate aim of all spiritual activity is to become free from the restricted life and the limited awareness which characterize our existence upon earth, in which orderliness and organized effort are necessary to remain free from the chaos of our incessantly restless minds. It is not therefore no wonder that the Bhagavad-Gita recognizes the importance of self discipline in the spiritual progress of man.

The Bhagavadgita says that to achieve the Highest State of Self-Realization through buddhiyoga, one has to practice atmasamyamayoga or the yoga of self. How this is to be done is described in the sixth chapter (Ch 6:10-19).

According to the scripture, a yogi should concentrate his mind constantly on his Self, leading a solitary life, controlling his mind, free from desires and possessiveness. Placing his firm seat in a clean place, neither too low nor too high, covering it with a soft cloth, deer skin and kusa grass, he should practice yoga for self purification, keeping his mind, senses and activities under firm control.

Holding the body, the neck and the head straight in one line, concentrating his gaze on the tip of his nose, undistracted, with peaceful mind, fearless, practicing celibacy, subdued in passions, he should become established in God and attain perfect peace and nirvana (Ch6:10-15).

There is no place for extremities in this yoga (6.16-18). This yoga is neither for the voracious eater nor for the non-eater. It is neither for the constant sleeper nor for the chronic insomniac. The buddhi yogi who is regulated in diet and relaxation, in sleeping and waking, becomes impervious to all sorrow.

Resting in the self alone, freed from all desires, he becomes established in the yoga of equanimity. In that state, he realizes his hidden Self, becomes satisfied in the Self (Ch6:20), finds unlimited happiness, develops an understanding of the transcendental state through his pure intellect and remains immobile to all sorrow.

He enjoys the extreme bliss of union with Brahman and develops the unified vision of the Universal Self, seeing the Self in all and all in the Self (6.21-29).

What happens if one fails in the yoga of self and mastering the self? According to the Bhagavadgita, the effort in the yoga of self does not go waste. There is no destruction for him who engages himself in such pious activities, neither here nor hereafter. (6.40).

If he falls from the yoga, he may not attain the Supreme State, but he would go to the higher worlds, lives there for countless years and again takes birth in the house of the wealthy, or alternatively, though rare, in the house of the pious or the yogis.(6.41&42).

On his rebirth in his new life, he regains the buddhi of his previous life and through it strives again with greater vigor and determination for self-realization. (6.43).

The practice of atmayoga also involves the cultivation of divine virtues and the quality of purity or sattva. The divine qualities are enumerated in the 16th and 17th Chapters of the scripture. Besides as a part of self-discipline, one should cultivate disinterest in the results of one's action, detachment from the objects of the senses, control of desires and surrender oneself to God completely and unconditionally, accepting Him as the doer and one's own inner Self.

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