By: Editorial staff
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Moral and Spiritual Principles for a Yogi
A Yogi has to abide by some moral and ethical regulations. Those ethical steps are called Yogangas. There are eight such steps involved in concentration or yoga. They are all aids to the concentration.
In order to understand these principles better, the definitions of the yogangas are presented.
1-Yama (restraint): These yama restraints are: abstinence from injury (ahimsa); honesty; abstinence from theft; continence; abstinence from greed.
2- Niyama (observances): These observances are cleanliness, contentment, purificatory action and making God the motive of all actions.
3- Asanas (posture): Steady of posture and easy position are regarded as an aid to breath control.
4- Regulation of breath (pranayama): is the stoppage of the inspiratory and expiratory movements of breath which may be practiced when steadiness of posture has been secured.
5- Pratyahara (abstraction): With the control of the mind all the senses become controlled and the senses imitate as it were the vacant state of the mind. Abstraction is that by which the senses do not come in contact with their objects and follow as it were the nature of the mind.
6- Dharana (concentration): Concentration is the steadfastness of the mind applied to a particular object.
7- Dhyana (mediation): The continuation of the mental effort by continually repeating the object is meditation (dhyana).
8- Samadhi (trance contemplation): The same as above when shining with the light of the object alone, and devoid as it were of itself, is trance. In this state the mind becomes one with its object and there is no difference between the knower and the known.
These are the eight yogangas (yogic techniques of various moral and spiritual exercises) which a Yogin must adopt for his higher realization.(1)
The virtues of non-injury, truthfulness, sex-restraint, etc. should be adhered to all stages of the Yoga practice. They are indispensable for steadying the mind.
These ethical rules that have been laid down for a Hindu Yogi must be kept in mind as in coming lines we will compare them with the ethical, spiritual and humanitarian advice and guidance that were stated in Islam for every Muslim. Then we will point out to the difference between the two spiritual systems in both cultures.
Moral and Spiritual Duties of Every Muslim
The ethical values that have been mentioned under Yama, such as abstinence from injury (ahimsa); honesty; abstinence from theft; continence; abstinence from greed are obligatory for every Muslim in all the times not only when he performs the prayer. Also, the moral principles mentioned under Niyama like cleanliness, contentment, and purificatory actions are more systematic in Islam than in the Hindu yoga philosophy. A Muslim has to be free from all bodily and spiritual impurities before beginning his prayer by taking bath, performing the ablution and making the intention pure. Every Muslim has to believe that Allah is the motive of all actions in the world; none can be a Muslim without it. As well as, the concentration is the essence of the prayer in Islam. All these subjects have been explained in the Sunnah of the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) in detail. Every encyclopedia of Hadith such as Al-Bukhari and Muslim etc. in the chapter of the prayers contained a lot of texts on this issue.
In addition, Asanas or steady of posture and easy position have been regarded as an aid to breath control in Hindu yoga. However, if you see the unique and healthy positions, postures and movements in Ruku`,Sujud and Qiyam, you will find the prayer a complete physical exercise, though it is a sort of pure worship for Allah the Almighty. You can see the positions clearly in any mosque when Muslims perform the prayer.
Also regulation of breath (pranayama) or the stoppage of the inspiratory and expiratory movements of breath have been regarded an important part of the Hindu yoga. This quality is present in the Islamic prayer in its true nature as a Muslim recites the Glorious Qur’an and the verses have fixed stops where the reciter ends his breath and starts a new verse. This makes the breathing system natural and healthy. In fact, these qualities can be felt by a practicing Muslim in a better manner.
Importance of Concentration in Yoga
The experts of Yoga instructs a yogi in the preliminary stages to concentrate on a definite concrete point to focus the thought,—between the eyebrows, on the tip of the nose, on the heart as a lotus-bud filled with light, on a picture or symbol.(2)
The authorities of Yoga stressed that concentration forms a vital part of Yoga; without it one can not accomplish important benefits, because the mind dissipates its energy and defeats its own ends. The Yogi should next begin to diminish the circle of his thought until it is wholly indrawn to the center and has reached that state which in Yoga is defined as Ekagra or one-pointed.(3)
According to Yoga authorities, Yoga brings the unseen world before us and makes it real to us; then we no longer doubt or have confused ideas regarding spiritual things.(4)
Concentration in the Prayer (Salah)
It is clear that concentration on one thing in yoga is the origin of success in spiritual enhancement according to yoga experts. Here we would like to draw your attention to the importance of concentration and unifying the thought during the prayer.Islam has emphasized focusing on the remembrance of Allah; the worshiper should cleanse his heart and mind from every thought except the thought about Allah the Almighty. A Muslim has to put aside every attention and thought that is not related to Allah before he enters the prayer.
Furthermore, during the prayer, a Muslim has to direct his face to the direction of Ka`bah that is the direction of all Muslims in any country in the world. When a Muslim performs his prayer his eyes should be pointed to the place of the prostration. Any action that is not amongst the rituals of prayer invalidates it such as talking to any person, eating or drinking any thing during the prayers.
Turning the face from the direction of Ka`bah to any other direction intentionally during the prayer cancels the prayer.
The manifestations of unity in the prayers are many;Allah is One, the timings of prayer are one, the place of congregational prayer is one that is the mosque, the imam of each prayer at a mosque is one, not two or three imams in one prayer and the performances in the prayer are one, such as Ruk`u(bowing) and Sajdah(prostrating). The recitation of the Glorious Qur’an is one, when the imam recites the Glorious Qur’an, he is only one reciter and everyone must be silent and listen to the recitation carefully. Anyway, all elements of the unification of thought exist in the prayer in Islam in a distinct way that could not be found in Hindu yoga, or in the worship of any other religion.
Concentration on Idle in Hindu Yoga
Concentration can be done only if you are free from all distractions. Concentrate on anything that appeals to you as good or anything which the mind likes best. The mind should be trained to concentrate on gross objects in the beginning and, later on, you can successfully concentrate on subtle objects and abstract ideas.
Regularity in the practice is of paramount importance.
Gross Forms: Concentrate on a black dot on the wall or a candle-flame, a bright star, moon, on the picture of Om, Lord Siva, Rama, Krishna, Devi, or your Ishta Devata in front of you with open eyes.(5)
It should be noted here that the focus in the prayer in Islam must be on the attributes of Allah the Almighty and His perfections and not on the material things that were mentioned in the yoga of Hinduism, as well as,focusing eyes on the candle flame may be harmful to the eyes.Yoga experts make focusing on abstract ideas and subtle objects in the advanced stages, but the prayer in Islam begins with thinking about the attributes of Allah the Almighty.
In Yoga, to prevent distractions and their accompaniments it is necessary that concentration on one truth should be practiced. Vacaspati says that this one truth on which the mind should be settled and fixed is Isvara, and Ramananda Sarasvati and Narayana Tirtha agree with him. Vijnana Bhikshu, however, says that one truth means any object, gross or fine, and Bhoja supports Vijnana Bhikshu, saying that here “one truth” might mean any desirable object.(6)
The experts of Yoga advise: “Never miss a day in meditation. Be regular and systematic. Regularity in meditation is of paramount importance.”(7)
This feature is very clear in the five daily prayers, as it is obligatory on every adult Muslim; man and woman, poor and rich, ignorant and educated whether in journey or residing. Moreover, the timings of the prayer are fixed and the prayers were distributed in a balanced manner that suits the nature and needs of the people. While yoga is not an obligatory worship and the timings are also not fixed. The biggest difference is that the five prayers were prescribed by Allah the Almighty and yoga philosophy was invented by some ancient Hindu philosophers.
(1) Dasgupta, Surendranath, Yoga as Philosophy and Religion. London: Kegan Paul, Trench, Trubner and Company, 1924, p.137.
(2) Swami, Paramananda, Science and Practice of Yoga, La Crescenta, Calif., Ananda-Ashrama; Boston, Mass., Vedanta centre, 1918, p.10.
(5) Swami Sivananda, Essence of Yoga, The Divine Life Society
P.O. Shivanandanagar—249 192 Distt. Tehri-Garhwal, Uttar Pradesh,. Himalayas, India 1988, p. 50.
(6) Dasgupta, Surendranath, Yoga as Philosophy and Religion, London: Kegan Paul, Trench, Trubner and Company, 1924, p. 126.
(7) Swami Sivananda, Essence of Yoga, The Divine Life Society
P.O. Shivanandanagar—249 192 Distt. Tehri-Garhwal, Uttar Pradesh,. Himalayas, India 1988, p.51.