THE EIGHTFOLD PATH OF KNOWLEDGE
KNOWLEDGE:In this chapter is described the jnanamarga (the path of Knowledge) which leads to Self-Realization through realization that the Supreme is One and Indivisible. Detailed description of the phases of jnana ashtanga (the eightfold path of Knowledge) such as yama and niyama is beyond the scope of this small work. Exhalation in this path means giving up the two aspects of name and form, of body and world. Inhalation is taking in (grasping) the sat (being), chit 40 Words of Grace (consciousness), ananda (bliss), aspects pervading names and forms. Retention of breath is retaining them, assimilating what has been taken in. Pratyahara is being ever on the vigil that the rejected names and forms do not intrude again into the mind. Dharana is retaining the mind in the heart, so that it does not wander, by holding firm to the concept already grasped, that is: ‘I am the sat-chit-ananda Atman’ (the Self which is Being- Consciousness-Bliss). Dhyana (meditation) is steady abidance as aham swarupa (in one’s true form) which is experienced as ‘I-I’ of its own accord, just as when enquiring ‘Who am I?’, by stilling this corpse of a body of five sheaths. For this kind of breath-control there is no need of such regulations as asanas (postures) etc. One may practise it in any place or time. The primary aim is to fix the mind in the Heart at the feet of the Lord shining as the Self and never to forget Him. Forgetfulness of the Self is the source of all misery. Elders say that such forgetfulness is death to the aspirant after Liberation. It may be asked if the regular breath-control of Rajayoga (a yogic path) is unnecessary. To this we reply: it is useful, but its value lasts only as long as one is practising it, whereas the breath-control of the eightfold path of Knowledge is a permanent help. The aim of both kinds of breath-control is to remember the Self and to still the mind. Therefore until the mind has subsided in the heart by means of breath-control or Self-enquiry regular yogic breath-control remains necessary; further than that there is no need for it. The kevala kumbhaka type of breath-control is of such nature that the breathing subsides in the Heart even without control of inhalation and exhalation. One may practise the methods of either yoga or jnana (knowledge) as one chooses. All the scriptures aim at control of the mind since destruction of the mind is moksha or Liberation. Yoga is control of the breath, while the methods of jnana or Knowledge is to see everything as a form of truth or as Brahman the One and Indivisible. It depends on a person’s maturity which of these two paths will appeal to him. The path of knowledge is like taming an unruly bull by showing it a bundle of grass, that of yoga is like taming it by beating and yoking it. So say those who know. Fully competent persons reach the goal by controlling the mind established and fixed in the truth of Vedanta, knowing the certainty of the Self, and seeing their Self and everything as Brahman. Those who are less qualified fix the mind in the heart by means of breath-control and prolonged meditation on the Self. Those who are still less qualified reach higher stages by methods such as breath-control. Bearing this in mind, the yoga of the control of mind is classified as the eight-fold path of Knowledge and of yoga. It is enough if breath-control is practised till kevala kumbhaka is achieved. Direct experience of samadhi can also be attained by devotion (bhakti) in the form of constant meditation (dhyana). Kevala kumbhaka with Self-enquiry, even without control of inhalation and exhalation, is an aid to this. If that becomes natural to one, it can be practised at all times even during worldly activity and there is no need to seek a special place for it. Whatever a person finds suitable may be practised. If the mind gradually subsides, it does not matter if other things come or go. In the Bhagavad Gita, Lord Krishna says that the devotee is higher than the yogi and that the means to Liberation is bhakti (devotion) in the form of continuous or prolonged meditation on the Self, which is the sole Reality. Therefore if, somehow or other, we get the strength to rest the mind perpetually in Him, why worry about other things?