Spiritual Teachings of the Avatar: Yoga

My Current Read is reviewing the Spiritual Teachings of the Avatar by Jeffrey Armstrong.  To encourage a more profound spiritual connection, Armstrong says this will involve engaging in paradox.

In the Vedic tradition, there are six darshans, or ways of viewing the truth,  that are taught in the six schools of Vedic philosophy.  These schools are:

  1. Sankhya: General Science– study of matter;
  2. Nyaya: Logic– study of logic and correct thinking;
  3. Vaishesika: Atomic Physics– study of atoms and molecular structure of matter;
  4. Yoga: Techniques of Meditation–  teaches to understand the essence of everything through personal connection;
  5. Purva Mimansa:  Rituals– “use of rituals and mantras to connect with Devas, to perfect action in the world, and to make a direct connection to the unseen realities”; and
  6. Uttara Mimamansa: Vedanta– the ultimate goal of achieving Transcendental reality.

Each darshan builds on the knowledge and experience of the previous school.  The first three schools primarily teach facts; but it is at the level of Yoga that the student begins to learn how to directly experience the “true essence” of everything.  Yoga lessons start with teaching individuals how to be fully present in their physical bodies before guiding them in deep spiritual connections with other beings and realities.

The “purpose of Yoga is to live in a way that leaves you clear and self-directing at the moment” of your death.  If you consider life a university to prepare you for spiritual advancement, then the question is what is next for you at the moment of your death?  The degree to which you master the eight limbs, or aspects, of Yoga will guide whether you reincarnate or not; and if so, what circumstances in your next incarnation will enhance your growth.

Asana is the first limb, and consists of learning postures (appropriate to your body type) to balance all the systems of your body.  The second limb, pranayama, involves learning breath in order to control your prana, or life force.  Controlling the breath calms the body and mind, allowing the individual to actively remain in the present.

Yams and niyams are the third and fourth aspects of Yoga.  Together, they aim at causing as little harm as possible, telling the truth, “cleanliness, contentedness, and restraining from gluttony.”  They are the rules, especially regarding your body type.

Having learned the basics in respects to living in harmony with the Earth and our body, the next four limbs of Yoga show us how to take control of our spiritual destiny and connect to higher levels of reality.  The next half of the process begins by teaching us to turn our senses inward, instead of focusing them on the outer world.  This limb is known as pratyahara.

The sixth aspect is called dharana, and involves developing single minded focus.  Armstrong explains that it is incredibly difficult to turn within and focus deeply.  But once proficient, a shift in consciousness is possible, leading to dhyan, the seventh limb.  Dhyan can involve meditation, but ultimately this stage entails learning to actively interact with the Devas, or the Laws of Nature- “loving beings who work for and do not compete with the Supreme Being”.

Samadhi is the final limb of Yoga.  Armstrong explains that the final level “of yogic meditation is when the essence and power of what you meditate upon is absorbed by the meditator and incorporated into your very being”.  Upon completing this stage, it is accepted that the atma is now empowered to become a Deva in their next life or to follow the path of the Transcendental Brahman (existence beyond the realms of matter).

The more we learn, the more we understand our true and full potential, which results in freedom and liberation of the atma.

To learn more about the Vedic path, you will want to get a copy of Armstrong’s Spiritual Teachings of the Avatar, where he goes into greater detail about the basic teachings of the Vedas and how this knowledge can guide you to recognition of your true self and your inherent power.

About Jeffrey Armstrong:

“Jeffrey Armstrong has studied Vedic philosophy and Indian Culture for over forty years.  He is the founder of the Vedic Academy of Science and Arts (VASA) and has shared his knowledge of ancient Indian wisdom with audiences around the globe.  Jeffrey has degrees in psychology, English literature, history and comparative religion andis an expert on India and the ancient Indian language of Sanskrit.  He lives in Vancouver, British Columbia.”

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