“His thoughts directed towards you, Rama is not even driving away flies, nor mosquitoes, nor insects, nor reptiles from His body.” (Hanuman speaking to Sita Devi, Valmiki Ramayana, Sundara Kand, 36.42)
na eva daṃśān na maśakān na kīṭān na sarī sṛpān |
rāghavo apanayet gatrāt tvat gatena antaḥ ātmanā ||
Move to a secluded place. Sit still. Make sure there are no distractions. Refrain from sex life completely. Limit eating. Limit sleeping. The idea is to stay focused. Breathe a certain way. Concentrate the vision straight ahead, on the tip of the nose.
“One should hold one's body, neck and head erect in a straight line and stare steadily at the tip of the nose. Thus with an unagitated, subdued mind, devoid of fear, completely free from sex life, one should meditate upon Me within the heart and make Me the ultimate goal of life.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 6.13-14)
The steps taken collectively are known as yoga. The benefits are tremendous. The spirit soul is gradually detached from the inhibiting body. Spirit is amazing. It lasts through the time continuum. It never took birth, nor will it ever die. The same size spark of spirit animates both the tiny ant and the large elephant.
“Some look on the soul as amazing, some describe him as amazing, and some hear of him as amazing, while others, even after hearing about him, cannot understand him at all.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 2.29)
How can yoga be practiced when more chaotic conditions exist? Is that even possible? What if a person can’t just drop everything and run away? The teachers in the bhakti school of spirituality say that devotional service to the Supreme Personality of Godhead is not only just as good as meditational yoga, but actually superior.
The idea is to work with thoughts dedicated to God the person. You can still practice meditation, but you don’t have to. You can go to work. You can spend time reading sacred texts, trying to understand the profound wisdom.
Everything is dedicated to Bhagavan, which is a better word to describe the person who is normally addressed as “God.” Bhagavan is a distinct personality with distinguishable features, though the exact nature of those features is impossible to fathom. He has eyes and ears, but they go everywhere. He sees everything and hears everything. He appears in the temple in the form of a statue, but that doesn’t mean His size is limited. He is the entire world and beyond. He is also the tiniest fragment of the material substance, the atom.
This sounds good in theory, but how do we know that the bhakti kind of yoga works? The above referenced verse from the Ramayana provides some evidence. Interestingly, the source is Bhagavan Himself. Here He is not necessarily practicing yoga, but the conditions are similar. Bhagavan in the incarnation of Rama is separated from someone He loves, namely the wife Sita.
Due to this separation Rama is sad. The thoughts are constantly on the wife. As a result, conditions in the material nature that normally would be bothersome aren’t anymore. The representative, Shri Hanuman, tells Sita that Rama isn’t even swatting away mosquitoes or flies. This is important to know since Rama is living in the forest, where the presence of insects, flies, and reptiles is increased.
Hanuman also says that Rama is eating much less, only what is available in the forest for ascetics. He eats in the fifth period of time, the evening. These are all conditions that typically result from meditational yoga, yet Rama isn’t specifically practicing that. He is staying true to the occupation of kshatriya, which is warrior/administrator. Rama has not renounced the world in favor of spiritual pursuits.
The life of the author of the Ramayana provides further evidence. He transformed from a dacoit by simply sitting down and repeating the name of Rama over and over. So much time passed in that trance that an anthill formed around the body. For this reason the spiritual master gave him the name Valmiki.
Who doesn’t seek peace? Who wouldn’t prefer to be able to withstand the many nuisances in life? Know that in bhakti-yoga everything becomes favorable. Unlike with the mechanical way, the slightest agitation doesn’t necessarily trigger a restart. There can be liberation even before death, jivan-mukta. And in the present age of Kali the way to practice bhakti-yoga has been made even easier. Just chant the holy names: Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare.
Retreat to secluded place remote,
And to process of yoga devote.
Concentrate and in erect position sit,
But benefits lost when trance to quit.
Same abilities when bhakti effort made,
Evidence when Rama in forest stayed.
Flies and insects swatting away not,
In trance thoughts of Sita without stop.