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Yoga Practice

It is now necessary to come down to a lower level and examine the obstructions, on account of which a mind cannot easily become one-pointed or ekagra. These, nine in number, are the following: Disease, languor, indecision, want of the mental requirements necessary for samadhi, idleness of body and mind, attachment to objects of sense, false and illusory knowledge, non-attainment of the state of concentrated contemplation, unsteadiness and unstability of the mind in a samadhi state even if it can somehow attain it. These are again seen to be accompanied with pain and despair owing to the nonfulfillment of desire, physical shakiness or unsteadiness of the limbs, taking in of breath and giving out of it, which are seen to follow the nine distractions of a distracted mind described above.

To prevent these distractions and their accompaniments it is necessary that we should practice concentration on one truth. Vacaspati says that this one truth on which the mind should be settled and fixed is Ishvara, and Ramananda Sarasvati and Narayana Tirtha agree with him. Vijnana Bhikshu, however, says that one truth means any object, gross or fine, and Bhoja supports Vijnana Bhikshu, saying that here "one truth" might mean any desirable object.

Abhyasa means the steadiness of the mind in one state and not complete absence of any state; for the Bhashyakara himself has said in the samapattisutra, that samprajnata trance comes after this steadiness. As we shall see later, it means nothing but the application of the five means, sraddha, virya, smrti, samadhi and prajna; it is an endeavor to settle the mind on one state, and as such does not differ from the application of the five means of Yoga with a view to settle and steady the mind (Yoga-varttika, I. 13). This effort becomes firmly rooted, being well attended to for a long time without interruption and with devotion.

Now it does not matter very much whether this one truth is Ishvara or any other object; for the true principle of Yoga is the setting of the mind on one truth, principle or object. But for an ordinary man this is no easy matter, for in order to be successful the mind must be equipped with sraddha or faiththe firm conviction of the Yogin in the course that he adopts. This keeps the mind steady, pleased, calm and free from doubts of any kind, so that the Yogin may proceed to the realization of his object without any vacillation. Unless a man has a firm hold on the course that he pursues, all the steadiness that ho may acquire will constantly be threatened with the danger of a sudden collapse. It will be seen that vairagya or desirelessness is only the negative aspect of this sraddha. For by it the mind is restrained from the objects of sense, with an aversion or dislike towards the objects of sensual pleasure and worldly desires; this aversion towards worldly joys is only the other aspect of the faith of the mind and the calmness of its currents (cittaprasada) towards right knowledge and absolute freedom. So it is said that the vairagya is the effect of sraddha and its product (Yoga-varttika, I. 20). In order to make a person suitable for Yoga, vairagya represents the cessation of the mind from the objects of sense and their so-called pleasures, and sraddha means the positive faith of the mind in the path of Yoga that one adopts, and the right aspiration towards attaining the highest goal of absolute freedom.

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