Thursday, June 21, 2012

On yOga nidrA.

srigurubhyO namahA |

In the last couple of mantrAs the sage has been speaking of the glories of yOga nidrA and though I should just stick with his narrative and not disturb the flow of the verses, I have to take you on a side track here. It is not really a 'side track' as here too I am only going to speak of the yOga nidrA, but it is from a different source.

Some of you readers might have heard of the term yOga nidrA at the end of your yOga classes and might think of it as a relaxation exercise. Though that is a kind of a very light application of the term, the practise of yOga nidrA is not really for mere relaxation - it is to cultivate 'wakefulness'. A kind of mindless mindfulness. A state of being united with the very essence of the being of all things yet being entirely oblivious to their existence. The tantrAs and the adepts who practise the precepts of those tantrAs, the yOgis of various schools of thought, the purAnAs, the vEdA, have all spoken about the mysteries and the wonders of this mighty enchantress. The queen of darkness. Of a darkness so smooth and velvety that it is as soothing as it is frightening. The very mention of yOga nidrA, brings to my mind two things instantly. Picturesque descriptions of the awe inspiring power on the one hand and the heart meltingly unburdening capacity of yOga nidrA on the other.

The first, which captures accurately the awesome power and the depth of veiling powers of yOga nidrA occurs in the equally awe inspiring saptashatI or what is known as dEvi mAhAtmIyam or chandI. There, during another epoch when the world was only endless water, and when the supreme nArAyanA was sleeping (due to the effect of yOga nidrA), two deadly asurAs were born from the ear wax of vishnU. These asurAs were bent on killing braHmA (who was seated on the lotus situated in the navel of the sleeping vishnU) and braHmA was acutely aware of his position. He knew that the sleeping vishnU was not sleeping the usual sleep from which he could be woken up easily to come to his aid. Instead he realised that vishnU was in the state of yOgA nidrA, possesed by the force and power of this power known as mahAmAyA or the great enchantress. It was then that braHmA invoked the aid of this great dEvi through some verses which are also known as 'pOurAnika rAtri suktam' and requested her to leave vishnU, so he could wake up and rush to fight the asurAs. A wonderful description of yOgA nidrA occurs in this section and the interested reader should pursue that further.

The second, which is also quite evocative of yOga nidrA is a personal favourite of mine. This is from the pen of Bhartruhari - A king of yore in the kingdom of Ujjain. He was the step brother of the famous VikramAdityA of Ujjain. But what makes him unique is that he was a renowned lover in his early years and after seeing the heights of passion and opulence and decadence, he was (like many) stung by love! This made him gravitate towards an austere and dispassionate life - one of a renunciant. Of a mendicant monk. Though the journey of Bhartruhari from king to renunciant is a very interesting and colourful one, it is not the place to speak of that now. What I was going to say is that this Bhartruhari was a great poet of his time. The teachings of his life became the inspiration for him to question the value of life and the purpose of it. He composed the wonderful and extremely enlightening work of a hundred verses known as vairAgya shatakam - or the hundred verses on dispassion. It is a beautiful work and one that is full of satire, irony and an acute perception of the wayward flow of life of one who is enchanted by lust and attachment.

Towards the close of the work, the 98th verse to be precise, the following verse occurs. It is a personal favourite of mine, as the longing of the poet for a state so united and undistracted is something very close to my heart.

For those of you who do not know Sanskrit here is a mini translation of the above verse - though the emotion of longing, the poetic beauty and the essence of the symbols used here are probably beyond the translation.

' Will those happy days ever come to me when on the banks of the pure gangA (ganges), on the wonderful slopes of the Himalayas, seated firmly in the lotus posture (padmAsanA) unmindful of the icy stone, I shall fall into the yOga nidrA (the perfect state), as a result of the regular and daily practise of the contemplation of Brahman. And when even old antelopes, having nothing to fear would scratch themselves by rubbing their limbs against my body ? '

The poet evokes the picture of a place perfect and serene, set in the beautiful and isolated peaks of the Himalayas, with the gangA flowing by. In such a pure place, with all time dedicated to the contemplation of Brahman, the poet imagines how it would be to lose awareness of the fact that he is seated on stone that is icy cold. This lack of external awareness is only possible in a state of transcendence or samAdhi. The poet reveals that such a state of deep and undisturbed awareness is the state of yOga nidrA, which again is a result of regular and steady practise of contemplation/ meditation of Brahman. Using the metaphor of antelopes, the poet paints more beauty into the verse.

Apparently deer/antelopes are creatures who are very anxious and agitated most of the time. This is due to the fact that they are prey to most of the bigger creatures in the jungle. They are always looking around, ready to jump and run at the slightest disturbance or the hint of danger. And old deer are even more anxious as they realise that they don't have speed, which is essential in reaching to safety in the case of danger. The poet longs for the day when even such old deer that graze the barren icy wastes of the Himalayan peaks, would assume the seated yOgi to be the branch of some dead tree or something similar (due to the prolonged inactivity while in yOga nidrA) and losing their timidity and fear would approach him to scratch their bodies by rubbing against his body and thus satisfy their itch!


Anonymous said...

beautiful narration. enchanting !!. keep the work going !! wishes.

mooligai sidhan said...

SrigurubhyO namahA|
Thank you very kindly.