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An evolved Sanyasi, however, is also usually a Yogi. The word Yoga means to yoke or unite, and it is used to imply the means or path by which the individual soul unites with God.
Yoga is today confused with physical exercises alone. Actually it includes eight types of disciplines.
The first two yama and niyama purify the heart and bring about ethical discipline. Yama means abstention of all types’ abstention from killing, untruth, theft and possession of property. It also means the practice of celibacy. Niyama means observance of purity (both external and internal) and practice of austerities or tapasya. It includes supreme contentment, thestudy and knowledge of the scriptures and surrender to the Supreme God.
The next three, asana, pranayama, and pratyahara are preliminary steps to Yoga. Asanas are the Yogic postures which, when practised regularly, steady the mind for concentration and discipline the body. Pranayama are breathing exercises which improve the condition of the lungs, heart and nervous system, bring about good health and thereby give a tremendous sense of well-being. They also result in serenity and steadfastness of the mind without which Yoga is meaningless. Pratyahara means shutting out all outward impressions from the mind and looking inward.
The last three steps are called Raja Yoga and include dharana, dhyana and samadhi. Dharana means concentration on any one object which could be a light within the mind or a form or image of God used in prayer. Then comes dhyana or meditation involving an unceasing flow of thoughts and ideas towards this object. Such meditation leads to the final state known as samadhi, when the subject of the meditation and the object become one.
Samadhi itself involves two steps. The first is conscious samadhi when the Yogi attains supernatural powers by the strength of his Yogic practices, becomes clairvoyant, adept at mind-reading and thought-transmission. These powers, called siddhis, are looked down upon in Yoga, but unfortunately most Sanyasis never go past this stage. At the same time unevolved persons and the illiterate masses are completely taken in by such persons because they appear to perform miracles, promise to cure diseases and to bring material prosperity to those devoted to them. Such Sanyasis should be guarded against.
The Sanyasi who ignores such powers and progresses further attains the superconscious or nirvikalpa samadhi when the mind is in full union with God. The Yogi in this stage has broken the bonds of Samsara, the cycle of births and deaths and is verily a liberated soul.
From time immemorial great Yogis and Sanyasis have been Gurus (or teachers) who have taught the truths of the Hindu religion and spread its messages to the masses and to intellectuals, to guide them in matters of the spirit. Some of them have spread these truths all over the world.
Shri Ramalinga Swami, Shri Ramakrishna Paramahamsa, Sharada Devi, Swami Vivekananda, Swami Rama Tirtha, Shri Aurobindo, Shri Ramana Maharishi and Swami Sivananda are a few of the many great souls no longer with us whose spiritual messages, loud and clear, still guide mankind. Hundreds of Hindu Yogis and Sanyasis are to be found all over the world today who work for the spiritual progress of our great land. Whereas there are quite a few who trade on the gullibility of the innocent, there are several genuinely great Gurus who teach those amongst us who are totally ignorant about our own religion and guide others towards the path of spiritualism. To such Sanyasis and their work of spreading the truths of the Hindu Religion, we should bow in all humility.
Writer –Shakunthala Jagannathan