Tuesday, 1 April 2008

06. Upāsana Yoga – Right Action

6. Upāsana Yoga – Right Action

In the last few sessions, we saw a framework for Vaidikas and then a course of discipline for the accomplishment of all the four human goals – focussing on Moksha as the final goal. This course of discipline can be broadly classified into three, each one being called a Yogaha
Karma Yoga
Upāsana Yoga
Jnāna Yoga

We saw Karma Yoga in the previous Yoga – proper action and proper attitude and the propriety of the action is determined by its capacity for giving inner growth. The propriety of the action is not governed by its capacity for material accomplishment – which were always considered incidental – propriety is measured in terms of its capacity for giving inner growth. And proper attitude we saw because attitude can change the quality of the action and response to the result of the action also. Attitude is as much important as the action itself. This was Karma Yoga and has been elaborately dealt with in the Gītā especially in the third chapter.

We will now go through the Upāsana Yoga and Shankarāchārya sometimes calls it Samādhi Yogaha. The purpose of Upāsana Yoga is a program to make our personality fit for the accomplishment of the Purushārtha – Purushārtha Yogyatā Sampadanārtham. This is to make the personality Purushārtha worthy. This is because the entire life’s journey is nothing but a journey to accomplish the human goals. Upāsana Yoga can be presented as a personality conditioning programme.

In the Kathopanishad, our very personality is compared to a vehicle for reaching the goal. Just as a vehicle should be in fit condition for travelling and successfully reaching the goal, our personality must be in a fit condition. For this purpose, our scriptures divide our personality into different layers for the facility for handling. This is because we are a complex personality and cannot be handled in one go, it has to be subdivided into layers for the facility of handling. And this layer wise division is done in several angles – sometimes as Kosha Panchakam or Sharīra Trayam – when different methods are used. For the convenience of our study, we will divide our personality into three layers which have to be carefully conditions. This is popular in the Shāstrams and hence an important classification.

The first layer of our personality is Kāyikam. This is from the standpoint of the physical body. The second aspect of our personality is Vāchikam because we have a developed organ of speech – this not only displays our personality but also influences our personality.
The third is the Manasa Amshaha – our psychological personality which the subtlest and most important and extremely difficult to handle but this cannot be ignored. Our scriptures take into account all three layers of personality and also prescribe programs for conditioning these layers

6.1. Physical body

The first one is the physical personality of physical body. We all know that the physical body is the most important instrument through which we have to accomplish everything in life, whether it is material pursuit of spiritual pursuit. Therefore scriptures uniformly declare never to neglect the physical body or health. Throughout the scriptures we have prayers e.g. Aroga Drudha Gātra Sampathyartham

Or we say this before consuming medicines,

Sharīre Jarjaribhūte Vyādhigraste Kalevare
Oushadham Jānhavi Toyam Vaidyo Nārāyano Harihi

When the Sharīram (body) is suffering and the body is beset with disease,
The medicine is the sacred water of the Ganga and the doctor is Lord Nārāyanā

It is not only in the materialistic portion of the Vedas, even in the spiritual portion in the Vedāntik Shānti Pāthās , many prayers are for fit personalities. Physical fitness and attention towards that is extremely important.

Unfortunately, health is always taken for granted until we get struck with diseases. The law is Preservation of health is far more easier than trying to recover the lost health. Preservation of health is least expensive and least time consuming whereas once the health is lost, trying to get it back is more time consuming and expensive. One who cannot voluntarily give time for health will have to forcibly give time to diseases. Allied with health the scriptures talk about diet and exercises. Health maintenance should not be looked upon as pampering of the body. Pampering of the body arises only when physical is considered as an end in itself or physical health is regarded for unworthy goals. It does not come under pampering but comes under Sādhanāni.

6.2. Verbal Conditioning

The next layer of personality is Vāchika Amshaha. This also is considered extremely important. Shankarāchārya points out in Vivekachūdāmani

Yogasya Prathamam Dvāram Vān Nirodho Parigrahaha Nirāsha Cha Nirīhā Cha

Speech discipline is referred to by Krishna in the seventeenth chapter talks about observation of four parameters

6.2.1.Anudvega Karam

Make sure that your speech does not hurt anyone. Ahimsā at Vāk level is the first stage. All forms of abuse, criticisms, blaming, denigration, arguments are all Himsā. An easy way to determine what is unacceptable is first understand what hurts me due to others’ speech. Once identified, my first aim is to avoid all these items of speech and if unavoidable, then I should know how to do it so that the hurt is minimised or neutralised – just as the doctor anesthetises the person before cutting the person’s body


Satyam means truthfulness. This is one of the most important disciplines which is the stepping stone to reach Brahman or God which is none other than Satyam. Only by the speak the truth we can reach the absolute Satyam. Truth in the empirical plane will help win truth in the absolute plane. Empirical truth is a verbal discipline and absolute truth is God. Therefore every Asatyam is taking me away from God.

Asato Mā SatgaMāyā – Oh Lord. Please take me away from Asat. Every lie takes me away from God or truth whether white lies or not. I should sensitise my mind to such an extent that every lie should disturb me and the disturbance should become deep and long-lasting. The pain caused by lie should become so deep that the benefit attained by lying should become insignificant and I effortlessly drop lying. The Pāpam obtained by unavoidable lies can be reduced to an extent by certain Prāyaschittam – voluntary undergoing of pain.


This is the third parameter of Vāk Tapas. This means that your speech must be pleasant in terms of decibels. Soft, slow, polite and gentle (Mangala Shabdam) should be used. Give up all the Amangala Shabdāhā.


This means whatever is good to the listener also. Find out whether it is good for the listener also. One of the worst forms of Himsā is talking to a person who is not interested in you. This is the worst form of verbal violence. And the bitter fact is generally nobody wants to listen to us !

6.3. Mental Conditioning

The Third Layer is Mānasa Amshaha – the mental conditioning programme. All forms of meditation comes under Mental Conditioning programme, though meditation is not the only method of mental conditioning. Primarily the word Upāsana means Meditation for Mental Conditioning. Since mind cannot be handled without taking care of body and speech, we include body conditioning and speech conditioning as a stepping stone for mental conditioning. This is because mind is a subtle instrument and is not that easy to control the mind. Hence first start with physical and verbal discipline and then come to the mind. Therefore the first two become indirect methods for conditioning the mind later.

That is why any meditation programme will include physical and verbal discipline. In Ashtānga Yoga of Patanjali, even though the purpose is mental conditioning, Patanjali talks about physical and verbal discipline. The sixth chapter of the Gītā is titled Meditation but Krishna talks about Āhāra Niyama. Body and mind are connected as speech and mind are as well. Therefore when one is highly emotional (e.g. anger) it is difficult to talk slowly and softly. All psychosomatic studies reveal that your mental and physical bodies are connected and therefore out approach is through the body and speech, we try to handle the mind. Therefore Upāsana primarily means mental discipline and secondarily means physical and verbal discipline as well.

For the sake of our convenience, we can classify all forms of meditation into four types based on the type of discipline that we want to inculcate in the mind i.e. the aspect of the mind that we want to handle. The four forms are

6.3.1.Relaxation meditation

Any form of meditation where the aim is relaxing the mind in particular and relaxing all the other parts of the body in general. These include physical withdrawal, verbal withdrawal, sensorial withdrawal. This is culminate in the relaxation of the mind. This is particularly important in today’s times because life has become very fast paced and stressful as well. Hence relaxation meditation can be termed de-stressing meditation. Learn to sit for a few minutes every day just relaxing. This is required for the physical and mental health. Any technique or methodology used does not matter – e.g. repeating a mantra, watching your breath or just repeating Shāntihi.

6.3.2.Focussing meditation

This is concentration meditation where I train my mind to develop attention and attention span. The capacity to focus in a field for a length of time whether it is material or spiritual field. This is required for everything – sports, studying, listening to a class. Generally in our scriptures, Mānasa Pūja or mental worship of the Lord is prescribed. Also are included, Mānasa Pārāyanam referring to mentally chanting something or Mānasa Japa referring to mentally chanting one Nāmaha (name) of the Lord. The difference between Pārāyanam and Japa is that Pārāyanam refers to chanting any prayer, in Japa only one name of the Lord is taken.

6.3.3.Expansion meditation

Here I learn to expand my mind to visualise the totality of creation. Only then do we know our relative significance – which is nothing but zero! We have a wrong perspective with regards to our life and situations – i.e. our problems are the most important, without us the world will come to an end. Such a wrong perspective leads to wrong responses. Everything should be put into its place and I will know my place only when I look at myself from the standpoint of totality. It is the meditation of the creation itself, starts, galaxies, sky, solar system and planet and continent and rivers and mountains, birds animals, and human beings. This is called Vishva Rūpa Dhyana, as we look up the creation as the Universal Form of God. So in this form of meditation, we visualise the totality.

6.3.4.Value meditation

This is also called Transformation meditation. Here I have to bring about a total, inner transformation by changing my thought pattern. We generally neglect our thought pattern because it is too subtle and too fleeting and the other people don’t see that. But we should remember, our thought pattern determines our life , our journey and our destiny.

“Watch your thoughts, they become your words,
Watch your words, they become your action,
Watch your actions they become your habit,
Watch your habits they become your character,
Watch your character, it becomes your destiny”

Hence thought is the subtlest Bījam or seed that determines your future.

Yad Bhāvam Tad Bhavati

As you think so you become. Daivī Sampat and Āsurī Sampat

In Shastra, it is known by two technical words – Tat Kratunyāyaha or Bhramara Kītanyāyaha. Never neglect watching or being aware of your though pattern. They determine your future - therefore inner transformation of our thought pattern is necessary. The scriptures also give us what is the thought pattern which will take me towards the Spiritual goal – Daivī Sampat in the 16th chapter of Gītā. The other set of thought patterns is known as Āsurī Sampat which will take me away from the goal.

Āsurī Sampat include jealousy, depression, impatience, irritation – these are nothing but thoughts only. Remember that thoughts are like bricks which determine the shape of the building. If the shape of the building has to be changed, you have to change the brick arrangements. If you have to transform your life, you have to transform your thought pattern. Therefore I just change my thought and visualise myself as a transformed person – I am patient, I am confident to face my life. You repeat the thought that I am diffident and I will only be incapable. Nowadays even diseases can be cured by just willing health. Mind is a powerful instrument with a tremendous Sankalpa Shakti – Resolution Strength. This Value meditation is exploiting or utilising our Sankalpa Shakti. This is the fourth type of meditation.

The above four forms of meditation will condition my mind and make my mind healthy and Purushārtha Worthy.

6.3.5.Team work of Body Speech and Mind

Then comes the final topic. Not only should the personalities be healthy (i.e. the body, speech and mind), not only should they be individually healthy, the most important thing is they should function in integration or coordination. So not only is conditioning important, their integration which is now called Team Work is important as well. Body, speech and mind should not function at cross purposes. In fact everytime we lie, we are breaking the coordination by creating a division between speech and mind. Punctuality is a very important discipline to integrate the personality. It is called Aarjavam - Team work of the personality. Thus individual health and team work or integration have to be taken care of and the scheme presecribed by the Shāstrams is Upāsana Yogaha otherwise called Samādhi Yogaha or Ashtānga Yogaha.

Of course there is no chronology between Karma Yoga and Upāsana Yoga. Maybe at a particular stage you might be focussing more on one or the other. All are equally important. Once we have gone through the first and second discipline, we are ready for the third and most important course of discipline called Jnāna Yogaha which we will see eventually.

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