PoY 3: Yoga as Meditation on Kṛṣṇa
In India there are sacred places where yogīs go to meditate in solitude, as prescribed in Bhagavad-gītā. Traditionally, yoga cannot be executed in a public place, but insofar as kīrtana-mantra-yoga, or the yoga of chanting the Hare Kṛṣṇa mantra: Hare Kṛṣṇa, Hare Kṛṣṇa, Kṛṣṇa Kṛṣṇa, Hare Hare/ Hare Rāma, Hare Rāma, Rāma Rāma, Hare Hare—is concerned, the more people present, the better. When Lord Caitanya Mahāprabhu was performing kīrtana in India some five hundred years ago, He organized in each group sixteen people to lead the chanting, and thousands of people chanted with them. This participation in kīrtana, in the public chanting of the names and glories of God, is very possible and is actually easy in this age; but as far as the meditational process of yoga is concerned, that is very difficult. It is specifically stated in Bhagavad-gītā that to perform meditational yoga one should go to a secluded and holy place. In other words, it is necessary to leave home. In this age of overpopulation it is not always possible to find a secluded place, but this is not necessary in bhakti-yoga.
In the bhakti-yoga system there are nine different processes: hearing, chanting, remembering, serving, worshiping the Deity in the temple, praying, carrying out orders, serving Kṛṣṇa as a friend and sacrificing for Him. Out of these, śravaṇaṁ kīrtanam
The whole process of the yoga system is to purify oneself. And what is this purification? Purification ensues upon the realization of one's actual identity. Purification is realizing that "I am pure spirit—I am not this matter." Due to material contact, we are identifying ourselves with matter, and we are thinking, "I am this body." But in order to perform real yoga one must realize his constitutional position as being distinct from matter. The purpose of seeking out a secluded place and executing the meditational process is to come to this understanding. It is not possible to come to this understanding if one executes the process improperly. In any case, this is the consideration of Lord Caitanya Mahāprabhu:
harer nāma harer nāma
harer nāmaiva kevalam
kalau nāsty eva nāsty eva
nāsty eva gatir anyathā
It is generally thought, at least in the Western world, that the yoga system involves meditating on the void. But the Vedic literatures do not recommend meditating on any void. Rather, the Vedas maintain that yoga means meditation on Viṣṇu, and this is also maintained in Bhagavad-gītā. In many yoga societies we find that people sit cross-legged and very straight, then close their eyes to meditate, and so fifty percent of them go to sleep, because when we close our eyes and have no subject matter for contemplation, we simply go to sleep. Of course, this is not recommended by Śrī Kṛṣṇa in Bhagavad-gītā. One must sit very straight, and the eyes be only half-closed, gazing at the tip of one's nose. If one does not follow the instructions, the result will be sleep and nothing more. Sometimes, of course, meditation goes on when one is sleeping, but this is not the recommended process for the execution of yoga. Thus, to keep oneself awake Kṛṣṇa advises that one always keep the tip of the nose visible. In addition, one must be always undisturbed. If the mind is agitated or if there is a great deal of activity going on, one will not be able to concentrate. In meditational yoga one must also be devoid of fear. There is no question of fear when one enters spiritual life. And one must also be brahmacārī, completely free from sex life. Nor can there be any demands on one meditating in this way. When there are no demands, and one executes this system properly, then he can control his mind. After one has met all the requirements for meditation, he must transfer his whole thought to Kṛṣṇa, or Viṣṇu. It is not that one is to transfer his thought to vacancy. Thus Kṛṣṇa says that one absorbed in the meditational yoga system is "always thinking of Me."
The yogī obviously has to go through a great deal of difficulty to purify the ātmā (mind, body and soul), but it is a fact that this can be done most effectively in this age simply by the chanting of Hare Kṛṣṇa, Hare Kṛṣṇa, Kṛṣṇa Kṛṣṇa, Hare Hare/ Hare Rāma, Hare Rāma, Rāma Rāma, Hare Hare. Why is this? Because this transcendental sound vibration is nondifferent from Kṛṣṇa. When we chant His name with devotion, then Kṛṣṇa is with us, and when Kṛṣṇa is with us, then what is the possibility of remaining impure? Consequently, one absorbed in Kṛṣṇa consciousness, in chanting the names of Kṛṣṇa and serving Him always, receives the benefit of the highest form of yoga. The advantage is that he doesn't have to take all the trouble of the meditational process. That is the beauty of Kṛṣṇa consciousness.
In yoga it is necessary to control all of the senses, and when all the senses are controlled, the mind must be engaged in thinking of Viṣṇu. One becomes peaceful after thus conquering material life.
This material world has been likened to a great forest fire. As in the forest, fire may automatically take place, so in this material world, although we may try to live peacefully, there is always a great conflagration. It is not possible to live in peace anywhere in the material world. But for one who is transcendentally situated—either by the meditational yoga system or by the empirical philosophical method or by bhakti-yoga—peace is possible. All forms of yoga are meant for transcendental life, but the method of chanting is especially effective in this age. Kīrtana may go on for hours, and one may not feel tired, but it is difficult to sit in lotus position perfectly still for more than a few minutes. Yet regardless of the process, once the fire of material life is extinguished, one does not simply experience what is called impersonal void. Rather, as Kṛṣṇa tells Arjuna, one enters into the supreme abode.
yuñjann evaṁ sadātmānaṁ
Kṛṣṇa's abode is not void. It is like an establishment, and in an establishment there is a variety of engagements. The successful yogī actually attains to the kingdom of God, where there is spiritual variegatedness. The yoga processes are simply ways to elevate oneself to enter into that abode. Actually we belong to that abode, but being forgetful, we are put in this material world. Just as a madman becomes crazy and is put into a lunatic asylum, so we, losing sight of our spiritual identity, become crazy and are put into this material world. Thus the material world is a sort of lunatic asylum, and we can easily notice that nothing is done very sanely here. Our real business is to get out and enter into the kingdom of God. In Bhagavad-gītā Kṛṣṇa gives information of this kingdom and also gives instructions about His position and our position—of what He is and what we are. All the information necessary is set forth in Bhagavad-gītā, and a sane man will take advantage of this knowledge.