Astanga Yoga: The Eight Steps Towards Divine Union

— 49-50 —

O Emperor, the All-Attractive being of all beings is he who is now among us in the form of fateful time. He deletes the existence of those who trouble the gods. He accomplishes his mission for the gods with time to spare. All of you can stay in this world for as long as the master.

Nārada makes several points in texts 49 and 50:

  • The All-Attractive Supreme Being is always among us in the form of fateful time.
  • Fate exists to squash the evil tendencies of living beings, through a system of punishment and reward.
  • Śrī Kṛṣṇa is this same All-Attractive Supreme Being.
  • He apparently incarnated to protect the gods and the godly by squashing evil beings.
  • While he remains on earth, so too do his eternal associates, like the Emperor, and his eternal paraphernalia, like his city Dvārakā.

Yudhiṣṭhira is not yet aware that Kṛṣṇa has already departed from the Earth, taking his city and most of his associates with him. Now it is time for the rest of his associates to depart as well. Nārada is hinting that this is why Vidura has come to take away Dhṛtarāṣṭra and Gāndhārī, and that soon King Yudhiṣṭhira and his brothers will also need to depart from the world in a similar manner.

Next Nārada will tell Yudhiṣṭhira what is happening and what will happen in the near future, with his uncles and aunt.

51-52

Dhṛtarāṣṭra has gone with his brother and his wife Gāndhārī to the place where sages reside in the southern Himalayas; a place called “Sevenfold” because there the Ganges splits into seven branches, creating seven islands for the seven sages.

53

He bathes and invokes the sacred fires exactly according to rites. Eating only water, by now he will have attained self-pacification and abandoned all desires.

Dhṛtarāṣṭra practiced what we call aṣṭānga-yoga (“the eightfold path to divine union”). Of the eight steps on this path, the first two are yama and niyama (“prescriptions” and “prohibitions”). Dhṛtarāṣṭra’s bathing and invocation of fire according to the regulations is how he practiced yama. Abstaining from all food except water is how he practiced niyama.

The result of succeeding in yama and niyama is to become self-tamed.

Most people who are “into yoga” manage to skip or not even know that these two steps come before one can derive any significant benefit from sitting in various stretches and postures.

54

He will master the postures and the breathing. He will withdraw his six senses and absorb them in Hari; overcoming the impurities of nature’s passions, peace, and ignorance.

The third step of the eightfold path to divine union is āsana (“postures”). The fourth step is prāṇāyāma (“discipline of the breath”). The fifth step is pratyāhāra (“withdrawal of the senses”).

There are six senses. The obvious five are sight, hearing, smelling, tasting and touching. The mind performs the sixth sense: “contemplation.” All six senses must be withdrawn from normal activity before one can reach divine union.

The six senses cannot be kept inactive; their very nature is to act and sense. So immediately after the fifth step of withdrawing them from normal behavior, one must go to the sixth step and engage them in paranormal behavior. This sixth step is dhyāna (“meditation”). Dhṛtarāṣṭra will perform the sixth step by absorbing all his contemplation, vision, hearing, etc. upon Hari, the All-Attractive Godhead.

The seventh step occurs when meditation becomes deep, uninfluenced by the distractions of material energy. Material energy has three modes of operation: rajas agitates us to endeavor, sattva makes us seek peace and calm, tamas makes us want to relent and forget. These three forces constantly pull the six senses by the ropes of habit, dragging them back into mundane activity. In the fifth and sixth steps, the yogi must engage in a tug-of-war with these ropes, making all efforts to keep the six senses withdrawn and focused inward upon Hari. When the yogi gradually becomes very successful at sustaining meditation on Hari for extended periods of time, he or she takes the seventh step towards divine union: dhāraṇā (“steady meditation”).

55

Totally united to perfect self-knowledge, destroy the knower of the body by merging it into the pool of spiritual being, like the air within a pot merged into the sky.

Nārada now begins to define the eighth of the eight steps towards divine union, samādhi. The first characteristic is the absolute loss of the limited ego. The limited ego is kṣetra-jña, the identity linked to a self-centered field of activities. When progress towards divine union becomes complete, we will feel the limited ego dissolve. It is just like placing a jar of water into a pool and opening it, or breaking an empty pot under the open sky – the contents of the container become one with a much larger container. When self-knowledge is complete, the false else dissolves into the amorphous reservoir of false-ego from which it was borrowed once upon a long forgotten time.

56

When nature’s impurities are overcome and their after-effects subside, the causes of desire will cease. All acquisition is stilled, immovable, and fixed. There is no further obstacle. All deeds are completely given up.

Nārada here completes his description of samādhi, the final of eight steps towards divine union. There can be no more obstruction to one’s unity with the divine, because even the causes of the things which cause such obstacles have ceased to exist within us. Renunciation of ordinary activity is absolute. Acquisition of supra-ordinary activity in relation to the All-Attractive Hari is equally absolute.

57

O King, he will probably give up his body in five days from now. It will become ash.

Nārada estimates that it will take Dhṛtarāṣṭra only about five days to complete the eightfold yoga process and abandon his body in perfect samādhi. This unusual swiftness is probably due to his excellent association with his saintly brother and renounced wife, and the excellent spiritual atmosphere generated by the honest sages of the ashrams of “Sevenfold.”

Nārada says, “He does not need your help in any way. Not even for a funeral. His body will turn itself to ash.”

58

When that saintly wife sees her husband’s body engulfed in flames inside a shanty hut she will follow into it.

Yudhiṣṭhira would protest, “My uncle does not need me, but his wife will sorely need me when he dies!”

Nārada replies that she will also take care of herself completely and will reduce herself to ash without any need for Yudhiṣṭhira’s involvement.

59

But when Vidura sees this amazing sight he will leave that place, pushed by feelings of both delight and grief, and again wander on pilgrimage.

Yudhiṣṭhira would again protest, “Then certainly Vidura will need me?”

Nārada says that Vidura will be gone. He will be delighted that his brother and sister (in-law) succeeded in liberating themselves from the cycle of birth and death, but morose naturally at the loss of their company and the various misfortunates and mistakes associated with their life.

60

After saying all this, Nārada and Tumburu ascended to the heavens. By keeping Nārada’s words in his heart, Yudhiṣṭhira could let go of all worry and grief.

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About Vic DiCara

Author of 27 Stars 27 Gods, Radically Deep Fundamentals of Astrology, and Beautifully Rational Philosophy of Astrology; Sanskrit translator of Bhagavad-Gītā, Bhāgavata Purāṇa, and Mādhurya Kādambinī. Bhakti-tīrtha vidyārthi at JIVA Institute of Vṛndāvana under the learned tutelage of Śrī Satyanārāyana dāsa Bābājī. Bhakti-śāstrī vidyārthi & adhyāpaka at Vṛndāvana Institute of Higher Education. …but all this doesn’t fully describe Vic. For the rest, best to meet him. Or, hypothesize it via “July 27, 1970 at 19:38 in Bay Shore New York.” View all posts by Vic DiCara

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