The next path is Ashtanga yoga. There is a so-called Hatha yoga they call Ashtanga yoga. It’s really not the real Ashtanga yoga. So if somebody comes, “Oh, I am teaching Ashtanga yoga,” look carefully. It’s probably just Hatha yoga, a little different variation.
Ashtanga yoga is the yoga of austerity. It is called the eightfold mystic yoga system. There are eight steps to reach perfection. So you go one after the other.
The first two steps are called Yama and Niyama. And this is when the yogi begins to clean up his life. He gives up bad habits, illicit activities and lives a very moral life, very clean.
Then he enters into the step number three which is called Asana. This is what we know as Hatha yoga – bodily yoga, physical yoga, a type of yoga gymnastics. The idea is now the yogi wants to perfect his body as much as possible because an unhealthy sick body is in the way.
For instance, you won’t think of your body when it is in good shape. The tooth, for instance. How many people think of their teeth? A couple times a day you brush them. Maybe you look in the mirror and smile to see if they are white enough. That is all, they are just up there. But when you have a toothache, that is all you think about, it becomes your whole world. “Oh, this tooth!” Nothing else exists but this tooth. So how can you go in to meditation and so on like that?
So Hatha yoga is designed to bring the body to maximum health. And it works. You can address all the different systems in the body: the muscular system, the circulatory system, the nervous system, the different organs, the skeletal system. Different positions, different asanas for different parts. Also this will include the yoga diet because what we eat also makes a big difference. So the yogi develops a yoga diet, vegetarian diet. And many, many parts of that. And on and on. So that is Asana, step three.
Step four is called Pranayama. Now the yogi begins to practice breathing exercises. Sometimes they combine this with step number three. This helps still the mind. The mind is very agitated. But through pranayama the mind becomes more calm, more peaceful. Also this is very good for health. So now pranayama is practiced.
The next step is called Pratyahara. This is where the most people quit if they get this far. Because this means sense control, controlling the senses. Most people do not like this because their sense activity is their life. In material life our happiness comes from our senses, stimulating the senses with various objects. We call this pleasure. When you tell a person they have to restrict their senses, they are not interested.
In Pratyahara the eyes, for instance… It is very controlled what you look at. No longer standing on the corner watching the pretty girls go by. That doesn’t happen anymore. And the ears. You are very careful what you listen to. So all those CDs and beautiful sound systems you bought, you are not going to need it any more. You can sell it, put it on the market. Very careful, only certain sounds allowed here.
The same with the nose and the tongue. The tongue is very restricted. In everyday life our tongue is our main source of pleasure. All day long we are stimulating the tongue: drinking sweet sodas, chewing gum, sucking on candy, eating all kinds of chips and food, whatever tastes good. But in Pratyahara – no, it is a very, very simple diet. No spices, very bland, lots of fasting. And then sex life – zero, no sex life, complete celibacy.
So as I say for most people… they quit right here. One time one guy told me, “You might as well kill me now. Why live? You take all that away, I’ve got no reason to live.” But if anyone has ever done any of it, just a little bit, you will find out there is an inner peace, there is an inner strength and happiness that are greater than the stimulation. Maybe you have done a little fasting, and after the first couple of days it starts feeling really good. And it is really good to know I am not the slave of my tongue, I can do without this and this. So there is a lot of strength there.
So now the yogi has controlled his mind, he has controlled his senses. His body is in good health. He lives a very clean moral life. Everything is completely calmed down.
Now he is ready for the next stage and that’s called Concentration. Now he can concentrate. How could he concentrate before? You got to smoke your cigarettes, drink your alcohol, your body is hurting, your mind is all over the place, senses going wild. How are you going to concentrate? You can’t. But now you can. So they practice concentrating on different objects, maybe it is a candle flame. They can sit and concentrate on the candle flame exclusively.
After they perfect the concentration, then they are ready for the next stage. This is called Dhyana (meditation). Concentration is called Dharana and meditation is the next step. Now you can meditate. So you can see how far down the meditation is. So if people sit down for 15 minutes and close their eyes and go, “I meditated,” that is not meditation. It is sitting down and closing your eyes for fifteen minutes. No, meditation according to the Vedas means concentrating on God. And the aspect of God that wen are concentrating on here will be the Paramatma, the Lord in the heart.
The Lord in the heart has a form, a very beautiful form, He is always smiling, very, very attractive. And now the yogi has reached the level of purity where he can actually see the Lord in the heart. And of course, He is very, very attractive so here there is the experience of affection for God. See, in the first stage of impersonal realization there is the experience of eternality. Now there is the experience of eternality plus affection.
And out of this affection the yogi enters into the last stage called Samadhi. Samadhi means trans. This yogi is now completely absorbed in trans, meditating on the Paramatma, the Lord in the heart. And there is great, great happiness and joy here. So this is the destination of the Ashtanga yogi.
Also along the way the yogi develops mystic power automatically. When all these senses are controlled, these mystic powers come to this yogi. Unfortunately, many get attracted to the power and they never make it to the final Samadhi. So many of them actually take birth on higher heavenly planets where the great mystics live.