Sivananda Yoga FAQ
Q 1: What is the technique of concentration on the 18 parts of the body as advised by Sage Yajnavalkya for the purpose of attaining Pratyahara? Please explain.
A: The technique of concentration as given by Sage Yajnavalkya involves a process of withdrawing the mind and Prana gradually and step by step from one part of the body to another, starting from the two big toes of the feet and progressing upward through a series of successive concentrations then withdrawals. Traveling through the several Centres of the body the journey leading finally to the crown of the head. By this process, the mind and Prana are totally drawn away from the entire body and finally Centreed in the top of the head where the practitioner dives into deep meditation. The first 9 of the 18 parts mentioned by Sage Yajnavalkya are given below: 1. The great toes 2. The ankles 3. The middles of the shanks/shin 4. The parts above the shanks and below the knees 5. The Centres of the knees 6. The Centres of the thighs 7. The anus 8. The Centre of the body, just below the waist 9. The genitals.
Q 2: It takes a long time to remove Mala and Vikshepa. What to do?
A: If you want to become a Master of Arts, it takes a large number of years. You will have to pass through the Matriculation, Intermediate and B.A. courses and then take up the M.A. course. Even so, you will have to plod on and persevere for many years to remove the Mala and the Vikshepa. How patiently does the fisherman wait with concentrated gaze to catch a single fish! When such is the case for a trifling thing, what to speak of attaining Brahma-Jnana? It is Kshurasya Dhara, walking along the blade of a sharp razor..
Q 3: You have said in one of your lessons that the aspirant should fast only once a month. But Gandhiji and others have stressed the importance of fasting. They say that one should fast at least three or four times in a month. Moreover, they point out that fasting helps self-control. How is it that you do not allow frequent fasting?
A: Fasting does help in self-control. But, too much fasting weakens the body and the mind and retards spiritual Sadhana. I am also a strong votary of fasting. Fasting is a great Prayaschitta. It expiates any kind of sin quickly. It has got a tremendous purifying influence on the heart. Read Manu Smriti. As the vast majority are afraid of fasting too much, I have prescribed only a day of fasting in a month. Young, robust, plethoric people can fast twice or thrice in a month if passion troubles them much.
There are all shades and degrees of character from the highest to the lowest. – Sri Swami Sivananda
04 Deepavali (Diwali)
04 New Moon
Dwell in the Divine. Live and move in it. Get absorbed in the Divine Flame. – Sri Swami Sivananda
KSHURASYA DHARA – the razor’s edge
The Katha Upanishad refers to the spiritual path as the kshurasya dhara, the razor’s edge.
uttiṣṭhata jāgrata prāpya varānnibodhata | kśurasya dhārā niśitā duratyayā durgaṃ pathastatkavayo vadanti || 14 ||
14. Arise, awake. Having reached the great teachers, learn from them. The edge of a razor is sharp and impassable. That path, the intelligent say, is hard to go by.
Commentary: Stop not until the Goal is reached. Approach the wise teachers and learn from them. The spiritual path is like the sharp edge of a razor and difficult to tread alone. The importance of the human teacher cannot be overestimated. “Study of scriptures without a Guru, for mere intellectual knowledge alone, will only lead to ajnana — ignorance,” says Lord Vasishta.
Lord Vasishta also says, “If higher knowledge is not already in the soul, then rebirth continues and there will be no other recourse than to suffer cause and effect. Even striving for light will not bestow any real benefit, for to seek enlightenment without the mantra, the teachings and the guru, is like trying to grow crops only at night.”
It is in the nature of man to strive for happiness, but all the happiness which he can gain by his actions is only of limited duration. – Sri Swami Sivananda