Progressive Stages of Practice


The progressive practice of karma, bhakti and raja yogas. Suffering is caused by our own improper, unwise action, bending the rules of dharma. True wisdom, in our tradition, comes from the practice of raja yoga. Tirodhana shakti, the now, desire, pulls us toward the world. Fill the mind with religious knowledge and devotion; then we're naturally turning toward God. Never give up bhakti; worship of Siva in the temple.

Master Course, Dancing with Siva, Lessons 2, 36.

Master Course, Merging with Siva, Lesson 320

Unedited Transcript:

Good morning everyone.

Drawing from some of our recent daily Master Course Lessons and first from Dancing with Siva and we'll look at the lesson.

When young,"... the soul is immersed in the lower nature, the anava marga, or self-centered path, bound in fear and lust, hurtful rage, jealousy, confusion, selfishness, consciencelessness and malice. Then it awakens into charya, unselfish religious service, or karma yoga. Once matured in charya, it enters kriya, devotion or bhakti yoga, and finally blossoms into kundalini yoga. Jnana is the state of enlightened wisdom reached toward the path's end as a result of Self Realization...," through the Guru's grace.

So that's showing the gradational or progressive nature of our teachings in the terms of the yogas. First we would practice karma yoga and when we're good at that then we move on to bhakti yoga; when we're great at that then we become a raja yogi and through raja yoga we become a jnani. And the jnana yoga is something we don't practice, that's a different tradition, philosophical study. So we do just the three: karma yoga, bhakti yoga and raja yoga.

So we have to be good at one before the other one really works. If we try and be a great bhakti yoga without a foundation of controlling the emotions and being of service, we'll find we get into emotional states now and then and it all falls apart on you. So have to first focus on terminated karma yogi. And then to try and practice raja yoga without the bhakti yoga foundation we run into something called the ego. The barrier to deeper realizations; we're too centered in our self. We go inside and we can't get outside of the ego, out on self-centeredness. Whereas, if we're a good bhakti first, then we kind of lessened that ego-sense, reduced it. And if we go inside to meditate before we're able to step out of the ego.

Gurudeva has another way of describing it:

"In the beginning stages, we suffer until we learn. Learning leads us to service; and selfless service is the beginning of spiritual striving. Service leads us to understanding. Understanding leads us to meditate deeply and without distractions. Finally, meditation leads us to surrender in God. This is the straight and certain path, the San Marga, leading to Self Realization--the inmost purpose of life--and subsequently to moksha, freedom from rebirth. "

That's describing the same stages from another point of view. So, why did we suffer? Life is suffering. Why would life be suffering? Well because we're acting on unwisely. So the suffering is caused by our own improper actions. From the law of karma. So, hurting others. We're not being fully honest. We're not really upholding the high principles of dharma in the fullest and what will happen? Well we'll suffer according to how far we're bending the rules, so to speak. The more we bend the rules of dharma, then, the more suffering comes back on us. And finally, we catch on. There's no one out there causing us to suffer, not external to us which is the usual thought.

We blame, we take credit for everything that good happens in our life, right? But everything bad that happens is somebody else's fault. Such is human nature. But when we learn to take credit for what goes wrong as well as what goes right, what's that called? It's called learning. We suffer until we learn. So, we put an end to our suffering through understanding karma and dharma. We understand ahead of time: Well what reaction will this action cause? Do I want to experience that reaction or not? You know,we, we start to think about it. We understand the principle involved; we've learned.

Learning leads us to service. So service is another word for karma yoga. When we get our suffering under control through learning, we become less self centered naturally. We start to be more concerned about others, more concerned about the temple, more concerned about participating in the community. We're not as self centered. We're thinking about others in a natural way. So the learning, naturally causes us to focus on others more. And when we focus on others we want to help. We want to participate. So we're get involved in service.

Service leads to understanding. What does that mean? Well it means we start to understand spirituality more. Before we've just been understanding the law of karma, now we're understanding spirituality, God and service in a deeper way. And from that we take this naturally into meditation.

And one other way of looking at it is in yesterday's lesson. Lesson 320, Merging with Siva.

"In other words, the practice of yoga well performed produces the jnani. The yogi has the same experiences, if he is successful, and comes out with the same independent knowledge which, when reviewed, corresponds perfectly with what other jnanis discovered and taught as the outcome of their yogic practices. This kind of knowledge surpasses all other knowing and is the basis of all Hindu scriptures. The jnani is a rare soul, a highly evolved soul. He speaks of Truth from his experience of it and gives it a personal touch. As Shri Ramakrishna said, you go into yourself a fool, but through the process, up through the practices of yoga you come out a wise man. That is the jnani--the knower of the Unknowable."

Paramaguru Yogaswami had a simple statement that he would, I think it was German swami, devotee from Germany that he used it for. He said: "It's not in books you fool."

So we can take that literally and stop reading, right? But it's not what he meant. He meant the deepest truth in becoming a jnani is not done through reading. Shri Ramakrishna, he says: "You go into yourself a fool, but through the practices of yoga you come out a wise man."

So the true wisdom comes from the practices of yoga, of raja yoga in our tradition. So it's that practice which gives you wisdom from the inside. Study scripture is important but we don't want to look at it as the source of our jnana, the source of intellectual knowledge about the spiritual path, about God which is important to fill our mind with that knowledge. But filling our mind with that knowledge is just knowledge, it's not wisdom. So wisdom is what comes from our practice of yoga and wisdom is what makes us a jnani.

"The yogi who is in the process of yoga, who has not graduated to God Realization, is not yet a jnani, though he has all kinds of realizations along the way, some sustained others yet to be sustained. The yogi is seeking, striving, changing, unfolding, trying with all his heart to become, to know his ultimate goal. When the merger has become complete, when two have become one, he is no longer a yogi, he is a jnani. When the student graduates from college, he is no longer a student, he is a graduate. The merger of which I speak is Parasiva, to be experienced by the sannyasin who has turned from the world and into himself."

So turning from the world into himself. That's a very important process.

There is a simple visualization I use which involves five flowers. So you have to imagine five flowers cause we don't have five flowers here. Flowers represent Si Va Ya Na Ma. Sivaya Nama. Ya is the soul, ya is in the middle. Si is God. Ma is the world. So the soul is in the middle and can either go toward the world or toward God. And that which pulls it toward the world, of course is desire but, the tirodhana shakti, the now. Now represents tirodhana shakti. Or the false concepts that we'll find fulfillment in the world.

So desire, combined with the concept that it's going to be fulfilling, the soul gets pulled toward the world. But we need to pull the soul toward God. And that's where scriptural knowledge is important. So we have to fill the mind with religious impressions, religious knowledge and devotion. And then we're naturally turning toward God, it's a natural process.

And there's a nice emphasis here at the end. When Satguru Yogaswami often said:

"'Lord Siva is within you. You are within Lord Siva. Lord Siva with all of his powers, cannot separate Himself from you.' Siva Yogaswami told us to go to the temple, to worship at the temple. He also told us to go within ourselves, into Siva jnana. He did not tell us not to go to the temple. He did not try to break our faith. He tried to build our faith and make us strong. He guided us on the straight path, the path of the Saivite saints, leading us to the feet of Siva.

"Siva Yogaswami himself, though completely Self realized, went regularly to the temple, worshiped Siva there, then plunged within himself in the aftermath of holy puja, drawing near to Siva through meditation. He never advocated, nor has any Saivite satguru advocated, that advanced devotees give up bhakti, give up the temple. No! Never! They taught that Siva is within and cannot be separated from you, but they also wisely directed us to seek Him and worship Him in the temple."

Well that's an important part of Gurudeva's teachings is that in some traditions, when you become a jnani, you stop going to the temple. You're a jnani, you're the temple. Which is true; you are the temple. But Gurudeva says we should always continue going to the temple no matter how profound our inner realization is. It's a balanced out and benefited by continuing to worship in the temple. Or, as he says somewhere: "We never outgrow the temple." You know, we never outgrow the temple is always an important part.

That's an important theme in Gurudeva's teachings, both the meditation and the temple worship go hand in hand. They're a nice compliment; it's like two sides of a coin. They naturally compliment each other no matter how deep you go within.

Have a wonderful day. Thank you very much.

Photo of  Gurudeva
Many people today are addicted to abusing credit. It's like being addicted to the drug opium. People addicted to O.P.M.--other people's money--compulsively spend beyond their means.
—Gurudeva