Yoga is a philosophical system that introduces a way of life. The word yoga derives from the Sanskrit word yug that means to unify. Yoga, according the Himalayan Tradition, is not only a practice of the body, as we usually think in the western civilization, but a combination of the following practices:
1. 5 Yamas (what we should not do) - non-violence, not to lie, non-stealing, abstinence from sensual indulgence, non-possessiveness,
2. 5 Niyamas (what we should do)- purity, contentment, practices that lead to perfection of body and mind and senses, study that leads to knowledge of the Self, surrender to the ultimate reality,
3. Hatha (asanas)
4. Pranayama (life force through breathing)
5. Pratyahara (withdrawal of the sences)
6. Dharana (concentration)
7. Dhyana (meditation)
8. Samadhi (enlightenment)
So, according to the Himalayan Tradition, yoga is samadhi; and because it is made of 8 parts it is called in Sanskrit language ashtangha yoga, (ashta meaning eight angha meaning limbs). Also, the Himalyan yoga is called Raja yoga meaning royal path, because it contains all yogas: jnana yoga (the yoga of knowledge), bhakti yoga (the yoga of devotion), kundalini yoga, karma yoga (the yoga of action), etc.
THE HIMALAYAN TRADITION OF YOGA MEDITATION by Swami Veda Bharati.
The Himalayan Mountains have been the home of sages for millennia. These great sages have lived and passed on knowledge of the yogic teachings to disciples who then became masters passing on the teachings in an unbroken lineage since the Vedic period. Twelve hundred years ago Shankaracharya organized his teaching into five centers of the Himalayan Tradition. As one of those five, our tradition is the Bharati lineage connected with the Shankaracharyas at the Shringeri Seat. Bha means “the light of knowledge,” rati means “a lover who is absorbed in it,” thus, Bharati indicates one, who as a lover of knowledge, becomes totally absorbed in its light. The methods and philosophies of the Himalayan Tradition have withstood the test of time. Generation upon generation has followed this path and a huge reserve of knowledge has been built.
The Himalayan Tradition is not a tradition where a teacher proclaims himself a guru and students are expected to believe whatever he says, rather, the teachings come from the Tradition and the student can look to the Tradition to support and make sense of what the teacher says. The initial purpose of the tradition is to awaken the divine flame within each human being and the goal is for each student to become a master of the Tradition in coming to know his or her true Self. It is the task of the teacher, through the Grace of the Guru to selflessly help his disciples on the way of highest enlightenment. Passing on of knowledge is done experientially through the transmission of a pulsation of energy.
The Himalayan Tradition of Yoga Meditation combines the wisdom of Patanjali’s Yoga-sutras, the philosophy and practices of the Tantras, and the specific oral instructions and initiatory experiences passed on by a long line of saints and Yoga masters whose names may or may not be known. The Tradition is not an intellectual combining of three unrelated elements, but a unified system in which all the parts are integrally linked.
The principal tenets and practices of all known systems of meditation are included in the Himalayan Tradition and, for the most part, these systems have arisen out of it. For example: Vipassana emphasizes breath awareness and Transcendental Meditation concentrates on repetition of the mantra, whereas most Hatha practitioners pay attention mainly to posture. The Himalayan meditator, however, learns to sit in the correct posture, relax fully, practice correct breathing, and then combine breath-awareness with the mantra.
Here are the chief components of the Himalayan system.
Purification of thoughts and emotions:
• the five yamas: non-violence, truthfulness, non-stealing, abstinence from sensual indulgence, non-possessiveness, and the five niyamas: purity, contentment, practices that lead to perfection of body and mind and senses, study that leads to knowledge of the Self, surrender to the ultimate reality,
• the four brahma-viharas or right attitudes: friendliness toward the happy, compassion for the unhappy, delight in the virtuous, and indifference toward the wicked. (YS.I.33),
• the antidotes to disturbing thoughts, prati-paksha-bhavana (YS.II.33) to ward off the thoughts (vitarkas) opposed to the yamas, niyamas, and brahma-viharas (YS.II.34), and so forth.
Full awareness of the states of the body, breath and mind in a detailed methodology. A deep self-observation, in all states of body, breath and especially the mind.
or purification of subtle energy channels.
Pratyahara , calming the mind, merging the senses into the calmed mind, and thereby, calming the sense faculties. It is done through certain breathing practices in which the awareness is centered in pranamaya kosha [the sheath of the life force in our body].
This is the first step in the tantric path, the awareness of an energy flow in the spine, imagining and then feeling it, as though the breath is flowing through an imaginary hollow in the spine.
It is commonly understood to mean the practice of kumbhaka with mental concentration on a mantra. The Himalayan system of pranapana-smrty-up-sthana means the awareness of a mantra along with the awareness of the breath flow in all its various stages. Again, this is taught in an initiatory process. We shall include it in our description of japa also.
mental repetition and remembrance of mantra with mala. The ultimate purpose is to go into supreme silence
practices serve as ways of entering one’s own subtle body.
Both the method and the initiatory grace are required.
or concentrations (YS.III.1) and pra-vrttis
or resultant experiences (YS.I.35, 36).
or meditation proper. All the methods described above are integral parts of the approach to meditation, but meditation proper begins at the level of manomaya kosha.
This list of the methods in the Himalayan tradition is only illustrative and is by no means exhaustive.
The Himalayan Tradition of Yoga Meditation is distinguished in that it:
• is the first meditative tradition,
• is the most comprehensive, integral and all-inclusive,
• has given birth to the major meditative traditions of the world and has continued to enrich them all,
• does not require adherence to a belief system but experientially helps verify metaphysical reality,
• has an unbroken lineage whose continuity is ensured through transmission of Shakti in meditative and initiatory states.
Swami Rama of the Himalayas has presented this tradition in its scientific format in his lectures and writings and has initiated the disciples to continue a certain degree of transmission.