The Way of Yoga
We generally regard yoga merely as a form of physical exercise. But in the following lecture, delivered in February 1969 in Los Angeles, Srila Prabhupada reveals the inner meaning and nature of yoga as taught and practiced in India for centuries. He explains how expert yogis can—by practicing austerities—travel to any planet in the universe. But, he concludes, at the time of death the most successful yogis transfer themselves to “the spiritual world and enter into the Krsnaloka, or the Krsna planet, and enjoy with Krsna.”
“The yogic situation is that of detachment from all sensual engagements. Closing all the doors of the senses and fixing the mind on the heart and the life air at the top of the head, one establishes himself in yoga.” [Bhagavad-gita 8.12]
There are different kinds of transcendentalists, or yogis: the jnana-yogi, the dhyana-yogi, and the bhakti-yogi. All of them are eligible to be transferred to the spiritual world, because the yoga system is meant for reestablishing our link with the Supreme Lord.
Actually, we are eternally connected with the Supreme Lord, but somehow or other we are now entangled in material contamination. So the process is that we have to go back again. That linking process is called yoga.
The actual meaning of the word yoga is “plus.” Now, at the present moment, we are minus God, minus the Supreme. But when we make ourselves plus, or connected with God, then our human form of life is perfect.
By the time death comes, we must reach that stage of perfection. As long as we are alive, we have to practice how to approach that point of perfection. And at the time of death, when we give up this material body, that perfection must be realized. Prayana-kale manasacalena. Prayana-kale means “at the time of death.” For instance, a student may prepare two years, three years, or four years in his college education, and the final test is his examination. If he passes the examination, then he gets his degree. Similarly, if we prepare for the examination of death and we pass the examination, then we are transferred to the spiritual world. All that we have learned in this life is examined at the time of death.
So here in the Bhagavad-gita, Lord Krsna is describing what we should do at the point of death, when we are giving up this present body.
For the dhyana-yogis the prescription is: sarva-dvarani samyamya mano hrdi nirudhya ca. In the technical language of the yoga system, this process is called pratyahara. Pratyahara means “just the opposite.” For example, suppose my eyes are engaged in seeing worldly beauty. So I would have to refrain from enjoying that external beauty and instead engage in meditation to see the beauty within. That is called pratyahara. Similarly, I would have to hear omkara—the sound representation of the Lord—from within. And in the same way, all the senses must be withdrawn from their external activities and engaged in meditation on God. That is the perfection of dhyana-yoga: to concentrate the mind on Visnu, or God. The mind is very agitating. So it has to be fixed on the heart: mano hrdi nirudhya. Then we have to transfer the life air to the top of the head: murdhny adhayatmanah pranam asthito yoga-dharanam. That is the perfection of yoga.
A perfect dhyana-yogi can choose his own destination after death. There are innumerable material planets, and beyond the material planets is the spiritual world. Yogis have information about all the different planets. Where did they get this information? From the Vedic scriptures. For instance, before I came to your country, I got the description of your country from books. Similarly, we can get the descriptions of higher planets and the spiritual world from the Srimad-Bhagavatam.
The yogi knows everything, and he can transfer himself to any planet he likes. He does not require the help of any spaceship. The scientists have been trying to reach other planets for so many years with their spaceships, and they will go on trying for one hundred or one thousand years. But they’ll never be successful. Rest assured. This is not the process to reach another planet. Maybe, by scientific progress, one man or two men can succeed, but that is not the general process. The general process is that if you want to transfer yourself to any better planet, then you have to practice this dhyana-yoga system—or the jnana system. But not the bhakti system.
The bhakti system is not meant for attaining any material planet. Those who render devotional service to Krsna, the Supreme Lord, are not interested in any planet of this material world. Why? Because they know that regardless of what planet you elevate yourself to, the four principles of material existence will still be there. What are those principles? Birth, death, disease, and old age. You will find these on any planet you go to. On some higher planets your duration of life may be very, very much longer than on this earth, but still, death is there. Material life means birth, death, disease, and old age. And spiritual life means relief from these botherations. No more birth, no more death, no more ignorance, and no more misery. So those who are intelligent do not try to elevate themselves to any planet of this material world.
Now the scientists are trying to reach the moon planet, but it is very difficult for them to gain entrance, because they do not have a suitable body. But if we enter into the higher planets by this yoga system, then we will get a body suitable for those planets. For every planet there is a suitable body. Otherwise, you cannot enter. For example, although we cannot live in the water with this body, we can live in the water with oxygen tanks—for fifteen or sixteen hours. But the fish, the aquatic animals, have a suitable body—they are living their whole life underwater. And of course, if you take the fish out of the water and put them on the land, they’ll die instantly. So you see, even on this planet you have to have a suitable kind of body to live in a particular place. Similarly, if you want to enter into another planet, you have to prepare yourself by getting a particular type of body.
In the higher planets, our year is equal to one day and night, and you live for ten thousand of such years. That is the description in the Vedic literature. So you get a very long duration of life undoubtedly. But then there is death. After ten thousand years, or twenty thousand years, or millions of years—it doesn’t matter. It is all counted, and death is there. But you, the spirit soul, are not subject to death—that is the beginning of Bhagavad-gita. Na hanyate hanyamane sarire: [Bg. 2.20] you are an eternal spirit soul.
Why should you subject yourself to this birth and death? To ask this question is a sign of real intelligence. Those persons who are in Krsna consciousness are very intelligent. They aren’t interested in promotion to any planet where there is death, regardless of how long you live. They want a spiritual body, just like God’s. God’s body is sac-cid-ananda-vigraha: isvarah paramah krsnah sac-cid-ananda-vigrahah [Bs. 5.1]. Sat means “eternal,” cit means “full of knowledge,” and ananda means “full of pleasure.” If we leave this body and transfer ourselves to the spiritual world—to live with Krsna Himself—then we get a body similar to His: sac-cid-ananda—eternal, full of knowledge, and full of bliss. Those who are trying to be Krsna conscious have a different aim of life than those who are trying to promote themselves to any of the better planets in this material world.
You are a very minute, spiritual particle within this body, and you are being sustained in the prana-vayu, or life airs. The dhyana-yoga system—the sat-cakra system—aims to get the soul from its position in the heart to the topmost part of the head. And the perfection is when you can place yourself at the top of the head and, by rupturing this topmost part of the head, transfer yourself into the higher planets, as you like. A dhyana-yogi can transfer into any planet—wherever he likes.
So if you like—just like you are inquisitive about the moon planet—become a yogi and go there. A yogi thinks, “Oh, let me see what the moon planet is like. Then I shall transfer myself to higher planets.” It is the same with ordinary travelers. They come to New York, then go to California, then go to Canada. Similarly, you can transfer yourself to so many planets by this yoga system. But anywhere you go, the same systems—visa system and customs system—are there. So a Krsna conscious person is not interested in these temporary planets. Life there may be of a long duration, but he is not interested.
For the yogi there is a process of giving up this body:
At the time of death—“Om. .. ” He can pronounce om, the omkara. Omkara is the concise form of transcendental sound vibration. Om ity ekaksaram brahma vyaharan: If he can vibrate this sound, omkara, and at the same time remember Krsna, or Visnu (mam anusmaran), he can enter into the spiritual kingdom.
The whole yoga system is meant for concentrating the mind on Visnu. But the impersonalists imagine that this omkara is the form of Visnu, or the Lord. Those who are personalists do not imagine. They see the actual form of the Supreme Lord. Anyway, whether you concentrate your mind by imagining or you see factually, you have to fix your mind on the Visnu form. Here mam means “unto the Supreme Lord, Visnu.” Yah prayati tyajan deham: Anyone who quits his body remembering Visnu—sa yati paramam gatim—he enters into the spiritual kingdom.
Those who are actual yogis do not desire to enter any other planet in the material world, because they know that life there is temporary. That is intelligence. Those who are satisfied with temporary happiness, temporary life, and temporary facilities are not intelligent, according to the Bhagavad-gita: antavat tu phalam tesam tad bhavaty alpa-medhasam. I am permanent. I am eternal. Who wants nonpermanent existence? Nobody wants it.
Suppose you are living in an apartment and the landlord asks you to vacate. You are sorry. But you’ll not be sorry if you go to a better apartment. So this is our nature: Wherever we live, because we are permanent, we want a permanent residence. That is our inclination. We don’t wish to die. Why? Because we are permanent. We don’t want to be diseased. These are all artificial, external things—disease, death, birth, miseries. They are external things.
Just like sometimes you are attacked with fever. You are not meant for suffering from fever, but sometimes it comes upon you. So you have to take precautions to get out of it. Similarly, these four kinds of external afflictions—birth, death, disease, and old age—are due to this material body. If we can get out of this material body, we can get out of these afflictions.
So for the yogi who is an impersonalist, the recommended process is vibrating this transcendental sound, om, while leaving this body. Anyone who is able to quit this material body while uttering the transcendental sound om, with full consciousness of the Supreme Lord, is sure to be transferred to the spiritual world.
But those who are not personalists cannot enter into the spiritual planets. They remain outside. Just like the sunshine and the sun planet. The sunshine is not different from the sun disk. But still, the sunshine is not the sun disk. Similarly, those impersonalists who are transferred to the spiritual world remain in the effulgence of the Supreme Lord, which is called the brahmajyoti. Those who are not personalists are placed into the brahmajyoti as one of the minute particles.
We are minute particles, spiritual sparks, and the brahmajyoti is full of such spiritual sparks. So you become one of the spiritual sparks. That is, you merge into the spiritual existence. You keep your individuality, but because you don’t want any personal form, you are held there in the impersonal brahmajyoti. Just as the sunshine is small molecules, shining molecules—those who are scientists know—similarly, we are tiny particles, smaller than an atom. Our magnitude is one ten-thousandth of the tip of a hair. So that small particle remains in the brahmajyoti.
The difficulty is that, as a living entity, I want enjoyment. Because I am not only simply existing. I have got bliss. I am composed of three spiritual qualities: sac-cid-ananda. I am eternal, and I am full of knowledge, and I am full of bliss. Those who enter into the impersonal effulgence of the Supreme Lord can remain eternally with full knowledge that they are now merged with Brahman, or the brahmajyoti. But they cannot have eternal bliss, because that part is wanting.
If you are confined in a room alone, you may read a book or think some thought, but still you cannot remain alone all the time, for all the years of your life. That is not possible. You’ll find some association, some recreation. That is our nature. Similarly, if we merge into the impersonal effulgence of the Supreme Lord, then there is a chance of falling down again to this material world. That is stated in the Srimad-Bhagavatam [10.2.32]:
ye ’nye ’ravindaksa vimukta-maninas
tvayy asta-bhavad avisuddha-buddhayah
aruhya krcchrena param padam tatah
patanty adho ’nadrta-yusmad-anghrayah
It’s just like the astronauts who go higher and still higher—twenty-five thousand or thirty thousand or a hundred thousand miles up. But they have to come to rest on some planet. So coming to rest is required. In the impersonal form the resting place is uncertain. Therefore the Bhagavatam says, aruhya krcchrena param padam tatah. Even after so much endeavor, if the impersonalist gets into the spiritual world and remains in that impersonal form, the risk is patanty adhah, that he will come down into material existence again. Why? Anadrta-yusmad-anghrayah: Because he has neglected to serve the Supreme Lord with love and devotion.
So, as long as we are here we have to practice loving Krsna, the Supreme Lord. Then we can enter the spiritual planets. This is the training. If you are not trained in that way, then by impersonal endeavor you can enter into the spiritual kingdom, but there is the risk of falling down again—because that loneliness will create some disturbance, and you’ll try to have association. And because you have no association with the Supreme Lord, you’ll have to come back and associate with this material world.
So better that we know the nature of our constitutional position. Our constitutional position is that we want eternity, we want complete knowledge, and we want pleasure also. If we are kept alone, we cannot have pleasure. We’ll feel uncomfortable, and for want of pleasure we’ll accept any kind of material pleasure. That is the risk. But in Krsna consciousness, we’ll have full pleasure. The highest pleasure of this material world is sex life, and that is also perverted—so diseased. So even in the spiritual world there is sex pleasure in Krsna. But we should not think that this is something like sex life in the material world. No. But, janmady asya yatah: [SB 1.1.1] unless that sex life is there, it cannot be reflected here. It is simply a perverted reflection. The actual life is there, in Krsna. Krsna is full of pleasure.
So the best thing is to train ourselves in Krsna consciousness. Then at the time of death it will be possible to transfer ourselves to the spiritual world and enter into Krsnaloka, Krsna’s own planet, and enjoy with Him.
laksavrtesu surabhir abhipalayantam
govindam adi-purusam tam aham bhajami
These are the descriptions of Krsnaloka. Cintamani-prakara-sadmasu: The houses are made of touchstone. Perhaps you know touchstone. If a small particle of it is touched to an iron beam, the iron will at once become gold. Of course, none of you have seen this touchstone, but there is such a thing. So all the buildings there are touchstone. Cintamani-prakara-sadmasu. Kalpa-vrksa: [Bs. 5.29] The trees are desire trees. Whatever you like, you can get. Here, from mango trees you get only mangoes, and from apple trees you get apples. But there, from any tree, anything you like you can have. These are some of the descriptions of Krsnaloka.
So the best thing is not to try elevating ourselves to another material planet, because on any material planet you enter, you find the same principles of miserable life. We are accustomed to them. We have been acclimated to birth and death. We don’t care. The modern scientists are very proud of their advancement, but they have no solution to any of these unpleasant things. They cannot make anything that will check death or disease or old age. That is not possible. You can manufacture something that will accelerate death, but you cannot manufacture anything that will stop death. That is not in your power.
So, those who are very intelligent are concerned about finding a permanent solution to these four problems—janma-mrtyu-jara-vyadhi: birth, death, old age, and disease. They are concerned about attaining their spiritual life, full of bliss and full of knowledge. And that is possible when you enter into the spiritual planets. As Krsna states in Bhagavad-gita [8.14]:
Nitya-yuktah means “continuously in trance.” This is the highest yogi: one who is continuously thinking of Krsna, who is always engaged in Krsna consciousness. Such a perfect yogi does not divert his attention to this sort of process or that sort of yoga system or the jnana or dhyana systems. Simply one system: Krsna consciousness. Ananya-cetah: without any deviation. He’s not disturbed by anything. He simply thinks of Krsna. Ananya-cetah satatam. Satatam means “everywhere and at all times.”
For example, my residence is at Vrndavana. That is the place of Krsna, where Krsna advented Himself. So now I am in America, in your country. But that does not mean I’m out of Vrndavana, because if I think of Krsna always, it is as good as being in Vrndavana. I am in New York, in this apartment, but my consciousness is there in Vrndavana. Krsna consciousness means you already live with Krsna in His spiritual planet. You simply have to wait to give up this body.
So this is the process of Krsna consciousness: ananya-cetah satatam yo mam smarati nityasah. Smarati means “remembering”; nityasah, “continuously.” Krsna declares that He becomes easily available to someone who is always remembering Him. The highest, most valuable thing becomes very inexpensive for one who takes up this process of Krsna consciousness. Tasyaham sulabhah partha nitya-yuktasya yoginah: “Because he’s continuously engaged in such a process of yoga, bhakti-yoga—oh, I am very cheap. I am easily available.”
Why should you try for any hard process? Simply chant Hare Krsna, Hare Krsna, Krsna Krsna, Hare Hare/ Hare Rama, Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare. And you can chant twenty-four hours a day. There are no rules or regulations. Either in the street or in the subway, at your home or in your office—there is no tax, no expense. Why don’t you do it?
Thank you very much.
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