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Yoga Practice

When by observing the universal Mahavratas and filling the mind with the sweet emotions of friendliness and compassion, and by adherence to such attainments as contentment, etc., the mind is softened, the Yogin looks to the Yoga practice for gaining a complete mastery over his mind. Yoga means the arrest of the flow of the states, and is thus a characteristic quality of the mind, for in all minds in the continual passage of the states there is always taking place a relative arrest of a certain state and the rise of another. But not until this arrest of states has become an object of the conscious efforts of will, and has helped the Yoga to loosen the knots of affliction by inclining the mind to a state of deep and steady inhibition, can it be of any use to the Yoga ideal. The river of mind, says the sage Vyasa, flows in two directions: it flows towards the evil and it flows towards right knowledge, the good. So long as man does not find that his instinctive hankering after pleasure, sensual gratification, and worldly objects is incessantly drawing him into the meshes of pains, so long as he does not understand that the happiness of paradise of the popular forms of worship is not only transitory but is in reality dire pain with a mere varnish of pleasure, he will not try to turn his mind towards the right and the good. So disinclination towards worldly pleasures and their attainment, vairagya, is the first desideratum. The stronger the vairagya, the greater will be his inclination towards turning away his mind and controlling it from dissipating and corroding vices. The next desideratum is habit (abhyasa). The habit is the habit of steadying the mind. In order to strengthen it, one must most assiduously continue to practice it for a very long time, put the utmost energy of his will into the attempt, and have a staunch faith and confidence in the method he is adopting. He must habituate his mind and body to bear with indifference all sorts of privations and acquire absolute continence, brahmacharya, and be possessed of knowledge. It is when all these accessory conditions are thoroughly fulfilled that it becomes possible for a man to acquire a steady habit. The greater the chance of distraction either from ignorance, faithlessness or any other cause, the less will be the possibility of keeping the mind steady. The accessory virtues which gradually advance Yoga development are sraddha, virya, samadhi and prajna. Sraddha means not only faith but includes a sweet hope which looks cheerfully on the practice and brings a firm belief in the success of the attempt. Such a cheerful hope saves the Yogin from all depressions and fears, and keeps him steady in his path of toil. Virya is the firmness of will and effort which comes naturally from the firmness of faith and hope as is exemplified in Buddha when he said, "Let my body dry up in this seat, let my bones, skin and flesh molder away, but without attaining right knowledge which can hardly be secured even by the attempts of thousands of years, my body shall not move from this seat." From such an unflinching determination comes smrti or samadhi—the steady meditation in which the thinker loses himself in the thought. From the development of such samadhi comes prajna or right knowledge about the true nature of prakrti and purusha; and then one should continually meditate upon this right knowledge, till at last this also loses all attraction for him and he is liberated according to the superior, inferior or middling attainment of these conditions of practice such as sraddha, etc. The Yogins can be divided into three classes, and again each of these classes may be divided further into three classes according to the degree of superior, inferior or middling energy that the Yogin is able to devote to his task, and the time within which success can be attained is determined accordingly.

This reading on the practice of Yoga is Chapter XI of Surendranath Dasgupta's Yoga Philosophy in Relation to Other Systems of Indian Thought.

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