For someone weaned on MS Subbulakshmi’s music and the verses of Adi Shankara‘s Bhaja Govindam, like i was, nothing can transcend this combination of MS singing the immortal verses. My humble acknowledgment of this great clip.

Many may wonder what Shankara has to do with Yoga? He never wrote on Yoga directly. This one verse of Adi Shankara, the ninth verse from Bhaja Govindam, is the essence of Patanjali‘s Ashtanga Yoga.

Seeking truth leads us to detachment

Detachment takes us out of delusion

Undeluded mind from senses disengages

Being in no-mind leads to Self Realization

Let me explain.

Patanjali’s Ashtanga Yoga has eight limbs as i explained before. The first two, yama and niyama, are about codes of conduct,  one of our relationship to the world and the other on personal hygiene. The second two, asana and pranayama, are techniques to enhance the physical and breath energy, to harmonize mind and body. The third set of limbs, pratyahara and dharana, are about controlling and focusing one’s senses to reach the inner energy.  The last two, dhyana and samadhi, are about just being and integrating the inner energy with the cosmic energy.

Shankara says:

The principles of yama and niyama initiate us in the search for our inner energy, to seek who we are. These help us detach from a desire to obsess about material stuff. Physical and breath control through asana and pranayama take us to the next level of understanding that we are more than our body and mind, removing the delusion of identity with mind body. Pratyahara and dharana, take us further in disengaging from the senses and cleansing the mind of thoughts. Dhyana, the state of being in Self awareness with no modifications of the mind, leads us to the ultimate level of samadhi or Self-realization.

In earlier posts, i had talked about specific techniques of asana, pranayama, and dharana to reach the meditation state of dhyana.  There is no point in practicing them as esoteric techniques.  That will only enhance the ego.

We must practice these techniques as a way of life, as yama and niyama. Only then can we progress to the next levels. Yama and niyama are not merely starting points. They are the journey.

In a future post, let me explain what yama and niyama are.