Self-Realization through Yoga Meditation of the Yoga Sutras, the contemplative insight of Advaita Vedanta, and the intense devotion of Samaya Sri Vidya Tantra

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Yoga Sutras 2.46-2.48: 
Asana or Meditation Posture,
Rung #3 of 8
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Click here to return to the main page of the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali.Third rung is Asana: The third of the eight rungs (2.29) of Yoga is Asana, or sitting posture for the later rungs. The word Asana comes from the root ~as, which means "to sit". 

Two essentials for posture: Yoga has been defined as the mastery of the thought patterns of mind field (1.2), so that Self-realization can be experienced (1.3). To be able to do the meditation practices that allow this, it is essential that the posture be (2.46):

  • Steady, and
  • Comfortable 

Two means of perfecting meditation posture: Steady and comfortable posture comes through two means (2.47):

  • Loosening of tension or effort to sit in the posture
  • Allowing attention to merge with the infinite

Freedom from pairs of opposites: From the attainment of a perfected posture, there arises an unassailable, unimpeded freedom from suffering due to the pairs of opposites such as heat and cold, good and bad, or pain and pleasure (2.48).

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2.46 The posture (asana) for Yoga meditation should be steady, stable, and motionless, as well as comfortable, and this is the third of the eight rungs of Yoga.
(sthira sukham asanam)

  • sthira = steady, stable, motionless
  • sukham = comfortable, ease filled
  • asanam = meditation posture (from the root ~as, which means "to sit")

Steady and comfortable: The two essential characteristics of the sitting posture for meditation are that it must be:

  • Steady, stable, motionless
  • Comfortable, or filled with ease

Suggested postures: The sage Vyasa, commenting on this sutra, names several postures, which are further described by Vachaspti Misra in the translation by Rama Prasada:

  • Padmasana is well-known [sitting posture]
  • Virasana is that in which a sitting man [or woman] has one foot in contact with the ground, and places the other over the partially inclined knee.
  • Bhadrasana is that in which the sitting man [or woman] places the soles of both feet joined together below the testicles [or genital area], and places both hands with the fingers interlaced over that region.
  • Svastika is that in which the left foot is placed, a little downward inclined between the right thigh and shank, and the right foot is placed in a similar position between the left thigh and shank.
  • Dandasana is practiced by sitting with thighs, shanks and feet stretched straight along the ground with the ankles joined together, but the toes kept apart.
  • Paryanka is that in which the knees are extended and the arms are used to lie upon.
  • Sopasraya is that in which the tiger's skin or the deer skin or some cloth is used to sit upon. [The skins were used over grass due to the coldness of the ground, but these are not generally necessary now.]
  • Kraunchanisadana and others of the same class are to be imitated from the sitting postures of the Krauncha, the elephant, the camel.
  • Samasamsthana is that in which the feet are so placed that the heels and fore-parts of both are joined together with the feet a little bent.
  • Sthirasukha is whatever posture may secure steadiness and ease. This is approved by the writer of the aphorisms [Patanjali]. It is also described as Yathasukha. This means any position that may secure ease.

Use any posture that brings steadiness and ease: Note the suggestion in the last item noted above (Sthirasukha) that any posture may be used, which brings steadiness and ease. This is a common suggestion in oral tradition, that the posture might be varied, but that the key is that it must be steady and comfortable. Steady is given to mean that the head, neck, and trunk must be aligned, leaving the natural curve in the spine.

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2.47 The means of perfecting the posture is that of relaxing or loosening of effort, and allowing attention to merge with endlessness, or the infinite.
(prayatna shaithilya ananta samapattibhyam)

  • prayatna = tension or effort (related to trying to do the posture)
  • shaithilya = by relaxing, loosening, lessening, slackening
  • ananta = infinite, endlessness
  • samapattibhyam = by focusing attention on, by coalescence, coincidence, merging

Two means of perfecting meditation posture: Steady and comfortable posture comes through two means:

  1. Loosening of tension or effort to sit in the posture
  2. Allowing attention to merge with the infinite

A still higher degree of steadiness is attained by samyama (3.4-3.6) on the channel below the throat, as noted in sutra 3.32.

Effortless attitude: Most of us have busy lives in which everything happens because of a concerted effort to "make it happen!" It seems as if we must do something if anything is to happen. Perfecting posture for meditation comes not so much by doing but of not doing. Surely we have to put some effort into training the body to sit straight and be aligned. However, after that is accomplished, the next step is to learn to do nothing, allowing the posture to settle in for meditation. It is an active form of doing nothing, of consciously ceasing to place any effort into the posture. This conscious effort to release any form of effort can be felt experientially, internally. You can know for yourself that this really is a valid, useful, and key principle in developing a sitting posture for meditation. 

Loosening of effort through attention: One way of loosening effort is to systematically move attention through the body through a variety of relaxation practices. By systematically moving attention and breathing smoothly, the releasing of tension and effort comes easily. It is more a case of allowing than of causing the release that leads to a perfected posture.

Focusing on the infinite: To focus on the infinite simply close your eyes, sit as comfortably and erect as you can, and allow your attention to expand. Attention likes to wrap itself around an object. Allow that object to be the whole of infinity. The mind will not be able to do it, but the effort to do so will easily be seen to bring a stability in the sitting posture. With a bit of experimentation, you can feel the effects of this yourself.

Effortless and the infinite go together: By consciously, intentionally practicing the effortlessness of posture, along with the focus on embracing the infinite, it becomes self-evident how well these two work together. The expansion and letting go bring a natural release, as the attention is ready to move inward to the next rung, which deals with breathing and pranayama (2.49-2.53). 

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2.48 From the attainment of that perfected posture, there arises an unassailable, unimpeded freedom from suffering due to the pairs of opposites (such as heat and cold, good and bad, or pain and pleasure).
(tatah dvandva anabhighata)

  • tatah = then, thereby, thence, from that
  • dvandva = the pairs of opposites, the dualities, dichotomies
  • anabhighata = unimpeded freedom from suffering, without effect or impact, cessation of disturbance

Freedom from pairs of opposites: From the attainment of a perfected posture (2.47), there arises an unassailable, unimpeded freedom from suffering due to the pairs of opposites such as heat and cold, good and bad, or pain and pleasure. That perfected posture comes from the two means of loosening of effort and focusing attention on the infinite (2.47).

 

The next sutra is 2.49 

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This site is devoted to presenting the ancient Self-Realization path of the Tradition of the Himalayan masters in simple, understandable and beneficial ways, while not compromising quality or depth. The goal of our sadhana or practices is the highest Joy that comes from the Realization in direct experience of the center of consciousness, the Self, the Atman or Purusha, which is one and the same with the Absolute Reality. This Self-Realization comes through Yoga meditation of the Yoga Sutras, the contemplative insight of Advaita Vedanta, and the intense devotion of Samaya Sri Vidya Tantra, the three of which complement one another like fingers on a hand. We employ the classical approaches of Raja, Jnana, Karma, and Bhakti Yoga, as well as Hatha, Kriya, Kundalini, Laya, Mantra, Nada, Siddha, and Tantra Yoga. Meditation, contemplation, mantra and prayer finally converge into a unified force directed towards the final stage, piercing the pearl of wisdom called bindu, leading to the Absolute.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 
Yoga Nidra Meditation CD by Swami Jnaneshvara
Yoga Nidra CD
Swami Jnaneshvara