Yoga is chitta vritti nirodha – the bringing about to a halt of all the movements that take place in our consciousness. The word chitta means ‘mind’ or ‘consciousness’; vritti means ‘fluctuations’, ‘movements’; nirodha means ‘eradication’. Vrittis lead one to happiness or sorrow and this is a very important thing to understand. The effect of all these fluctuations is that we live in the high state, or we live in the low state; one moment we are happy, the next moment we are sad. Only when the quietness of the fluctuations is brought about, do we see who we really are. There are two ways in order to achieve that.
One way is a complete surrender – Pranidhana, to God – Ishvara. The qualities of God according to Patanjali are that He is omnipotent, omnipresent, and omniscient. In other words God is timeless – He is in the past, in the present and in the future. God is in all the places at the same time, and He knows everything that there is to know – past, present, future. By completely surrendering oneself to Ishvara, to God, one can reach the state of quietness.
We think we are this body, these bones, this flesh – “this is what I am”. People live in their bodies but they also live in their minds. When all the fluctuations have been brought to an end, in the silence, than we see who we truly are, we get the experience of the Self. All philosophies point this out and they have their techniques to bring that silence and quietness about. The technique of Patanjali is Ishvara Pranidhana.
What is the path of devotion? What is Pranava? The cross-manifestation of Pranava is the Oms. Om is everywhere – in terms of space, in terms of time, in terms of presence. In terms of the performance of duties, it’s all encompassing. One expresses one’s devotion by being total in chanting Om – the sound that is capable of transporting us beyond all disturbances. The highest form of Bhakti is Pranava. The highest, the subtlest of all sounds is the Om. Pranava – this is what Patanjali recommends.
If you can’t surrender, then you go on the path of Abhyasa (intense practice done regularly) and Viradhya (non-attachment).
These are the two pillars of how one can overcome all the fluctuations and come to silence. You can go in two directions: the path of devotion or the path of practice and renunciation.
A story about chanting
Valmiki was a robber, so when a sage walked through, he said “you can kill me, no problem, but I just want you to listen. All the karma which you are creating by killing other people and taking their possessions… Is your karma going to be shared by the family that you are doing it for? Go and ask them.” So the robber tied him to the tree and went to his family to ask his wife: “Will you share the karma with me?” She said “Why should I? Your job is to bring us what we need for the household. If you want to do it by killing, it’s your karma, not mine. My job is to look after you and to look after the children. It’s yours, it’s not mine.” So he came back and he fell at the feet of the sage and he said “What can I do? So the sage said “Sit down, and chant Ram, Ram, Ram, Ram…” but he couldn’t do it. He couldn’t chant Ram. So he said “Okay, chant Mara, Mara, Mara.” Mara means „die“. He had always been slaughtering people, so it was more familiar. He did that for thousands of years, and there were big anthills around him. Total absorption. When you are in the mantra, death is not capable of touching you. Nothing is. So he lived for thousands of years just chanting Mara, Mara, Mara… And he’s the one who wrote the Ramayan. The story of Rama. Valmiki.
Himalayan Iyengar Yoga Centre
Yoga master teacher Sharat Arora
Article derived from the Intensive Yoga Course at the
Himalayan Iyengar Yoga Centre in Arambol, North Goa, 2002