Bhagawatam 066: The eight limbs of Yoga; developing mind-control

Maharishi Śuka continues, “It can be said that the life of a person who is deeply attached and inclined towards these worldly material comforts, which is nothing but utter darkness called spiritual ignorance, is a sheer waste. On the other hand, even a short lifespan of an hour or so, after the usefulness of human birth has been understood, is equivalent of living a long useful life. Such is the result it bestows.

The person, who realizes that singing the glories of Lord Srihari is the main purpose of life, will strive purely for attaining liberation.

Khatvānga, the saintly king, realized that he had just about a muhurta (a measure of time equivalent to 48 minutes) of lifespan left. Instantly he freed himself from all material bondages, immersed himself completely in contemplation upon Srihari and thus within this short span of time attained liberation!

Therefore, O Supreme King! There is nothing to vacillate. You still have 7 days left. Utilize your time wisely and proceed on the path that bestows liberation.

During the last moments of life every person should necessarily give up the fear of death. Using the tool called dispassion (vairagya) he should totally free himself from worldly desires. Conquering the senses he should either leave home or distance himself from matters pertaining to home.

He should bathe in sacred rivers and then selecting a secluded place, he should sit on the seat (āsana) as prescribed by the Shastras. Sitting perfectly in that position, without any distractions, he should chant ‘OM’ mantra with total concentration.

The OM mantra, which is a combination of A,U and M syllables, is the foremost amongst the sounds that represent the Supreme Lord! Without allowing the mind to get distracted from this OM mantra, he should regulate the breathing through Pranayama and should control his mind.

Generally the five senses are attached to material objects that pertain to them. Through the medium of these senses, the mind constantly chases the objects of this world. It is because of the senses that the mind constantly travels in this world.

Therefore, the spiritual aspirant should, through the medium of the decisive intellect (nischaya buddhi) which is the charioteer for this chariot called body, and using the strong rope called the mind, firmly tie down the horses called senses and prevent them from chasing worldly comforts. He should pull them back from worldly objects.

Great caution should be exercised with respect to worldly comforts. The mind should necessarily be withdrawn from them and should be turned inwards. Influenced by the subtle residual impressions of its past actions (vāsana), the mind constantly gets disturbed.

Using the intellect (buddhi) that is replete with good samskāras (latent impressions), the spiritual aspirant should fix his mind exclusively upon the form of that Supreme Lord, which is the repository of all auspiciousness”.

This is the procedure for undertaking spiritual practices (sadhana). You must listen to this again and again, only then it will be deeply understood. It is not an easy subject to grasp. Only when one listens to it with total concentration, he will understand.

“Thereafter the aspirant should focus on each of the limbs of the Supreme Lord while his mind is fixed absolutely without any distractions upon the complete form of the Lord. Apart from the form of the Supreme Lord there should be no other thought. Such a state is known as Samādhi. Understand that this samādhi is the residence of Vishnu. If the mind is stabilized in this state, the person experiences ultimate peace.

Apart from the form of the Lord, if the mind fixes itself exclusively upon any other object and obtains  ultimate peace from it, then understand that object to be a form of that Supreme Lord.

The traits of passion and activity (Rajo guna) in the mind disturb and spoil mental concentration. The traits of inertia and ignorance (tamo guna) in the mind draw away from the person the capacity to visualize the Supreme Lord.  At such times, the aspirant should, without losing hope, once again meditate upon the form of the Supreme Lord. He should strive constantly to keep the mind under control”.

Please listen carefully without allowing the mind to stray here and there. This is a very important chapter in Bhagawatam. Maharishi Śuka is preaching this to Emperor Parikshit. Parikshit is now focused exclusively on the return journey. For this journey only the knowledge of the Supreme Lord that has been grasped is the luggage. Apart from this everything else we will leave behind. Hence be alert.

“It is very important to control the mind. Only the mind which has thus been controlled merges into Paramatma. The traits of passion and inertia (rajas and tamo gunas) no longer influence a mind that has thus been controlled.

In this manner when the aspirant, with absolute stability of mind, focuses upon the auspicious form of the Supreme Lord, very quickly devotion towards the Lord begins to sprout in his heart. Due to the influence of this devotion (bhakti), very shortly he can reach the Lord.

In this way Maharishi Śuka explained Ashtanga Yoga (the eight limbs of yoga) to Emperor Parikshit”.

In such an easy understandable way, Maharishi Śuka has explained this subject, which otherwise is extremely difficult to understand.

“Hearing this Parikshit questioned, ‘O Maharishi! What is the method by which a person can attain absolute concentration? What type of concentration eliminates dirt from the mind easily? How should concentration be practiced? On what should a person focus on?’

Maharishi śuka replied,

Jitāsano jita-śvāso jita-saṅgo jitendriya

Sthūle bhagavato rūpe manaḥ sandhārayed dhiyā

With relentless practice (abhyasa) the aspirant should perfect his sitting posture”.

Sitting posture is important. There are many who cannot be seated in a single posture for a long time. Forget Padmāsana, even in a comfortable posture they become restless after a few minutes. They change their posture or stretch their legs very frequently. They complain of pain in the legs or back when seated for a long time. To perfect the sitting posture good health is of great importance. Good health in turn is dependent upon one’s food habits, thoughts and desires. With good health he can remain in the same position for long periods of time.

Narayana! Narayana!

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