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Evolution of Sahaj Marg from Vedic and Yogic Practices
Dr. K. S. Balasubramaniam, Chennai, India.
India is the homeland of spirituality. From pre-historic times, followed by the Vedic and epic periods, many saints, sages and seers have emerged in this holy land. They gave their heart and soul to their pursuit to reach human perfection, realisation of God or Self-realisation. After reaching their destination, they tried to train many of their fellow human beings, to uplift them from their sufferings in this world. We find evidences for this in the Vedas, the most ancient literature of this world, texts on Yoga and other schools of Indian philosophy. Sahaj Marg, the modified system of Raja Yoga, stands on the foundation of these noble teachings of the scriptures, but like many other schools, it too has its own philosophy and unique practice.
The word Veda comes from the Sanskrit root Vid, ‘to know’. It consists of passages in prose and poetry that are prior to any other literature of this world. The Vedic saints are called Rishis, which etymologically means, ‘those who have seen the mantras’(1) . This required the practice of penance, austerity, meditation, celibacy and so on.
The Vedas contain the highest knowledge, the transcendental knowledge that cannot be obtained by other means like perception through sense organs, inference, and reasoning. Hence the Vedas have been accepted as the authoritative source of knowledge by all orthodox schools of Indian Philosophy. Those who deny this authority to the Vedas have been classified as heterodox or atheist schools of philosophy. The Charvaka (materialists), Buddhism and Jainism come into the latter category.
It should also be pointed out here that even among the orthodox schools (2) Sankhya and Mimamsa do not accept the existence of God, but they accept the authority of the Vedas and hence they are considered as theists or orthodox. The Yoga school of philosophy founded by Patanjali, whose period is fixed by modern scholars as 150 BC, accepts both the Vedas and the existence of God. Sahaj Marg, it may be pointed out, also holds the same view as that of Patanjali. It closely follows the principles enunciated in the Vedas and in Patanjali’s Yoga system.
Yoga is generally classified into two main divisions viz., Raja Yoga and Hatha Yoga, though later on many other branches of Yoga came into vogue. Hatha Yoga mainly deals with practices that help one to keep his physical body hale and healthy, by means of exercises such as postures (asanas), breathing techniques (pranayama) and so on. Raja Yoga, on the other hand, mainly deals with the mind. It endeavours to restrain the tendencies of the mind from going out, (like the reins of a horse) and brings the mind to a state of perfect calmness, equilibrium or balance. Patanjali’s Yoga belongs to this category. Sahaj Marg also follows the same principle. The practice of Sahaj Marg meditation regulates the mind and strengthens the will power.
The precepts and practice as advocated by the masters of Sahaj Marg are not contradictory to those given in the Vedas or ancient Yogic texts. Some examples are given below to prove this point.
I. Practice :
“Practice should be done for a longtime, without interruption and with dedication and then it gets established in a person”.
Sahaj Marg says that meditation means ‘to think of an object continuously’. Patanjali endorses this view in his Yoga Sutra(4). He gives importance to the moral and ethical values to be followed by all without any exception. He calls them Yama and Niyama each of which contains five principles. Sahaj Marg also emphasises the same, through its ‘Ten Maxims’.
Sahaj Marg prescribes ‘meditation on the divine light in the heart’. The Upanishads, which form the end, and the most important part of the Vedas, also opine the same. The Katha Upanishad (4.13) (belonging to the Yajur Veda) says: “The Self, the lord of the past and the future, is like a light without smoke; he is verily the same today and tomorrow”.
The Mundaka Upanishad (III.1.5.) (Belonging to the Atharva Veda) says: “When the impurities dwindle, the ascetics or the self-controlled, behold Him – stainless, resplendent within the body”.
The Mahanarayana Upanishad (II.7) (of the Yajur Veda) says : ‘we meditate upon Him, the limitless, the changeless, the seer, the end aim of the ocean of existence, the source of all Bliss in the heart, which is like a lotus bud”.
The Svetasvatara Upanishad (4.17) (also of the Yajur Veda) says: “the divinity who created the universe and who pervades everything always dwells in the hearts of the creatures. Those realize him become immortal”.
Lord Krishna says in the Bhagavad Gita (18.61), “the lord is seated in the hearts of all the beings”.
There are also many other passages in the Vedas which recommend meditation on the ‘light in the heart’, which is being followed by the practitioners of Sahaj Marg system of Raja Yoga.
Raja Yoga means the King among Yoga systems. The mind is said to be the king of all the sense organs and, since this Yogic practice mainly deals with the mind, it is called Raja Yoga. Gorakshanatha, a well-known Yoga master of 9th -10th cent, A.D. also asserts the same(5). But the ancient schools of Yoga prescribe many difficult practices, which are impossible to be adopted in modern times. Also some practices like breathing techniques, though beneficial if practiced correctly under the guidance of an adept in Yoga, would produce unwanted diseases if done wrongly. The most popular text on Hatha Yoga, Hatha Yoga Pradipika of Svatmarama (12-15 cent A, D.) caution the practitioners in this regard(6) . Hence, a simplified system of Raja Yoga is the need of the hour.
The method known as Sahaj Marg which is practiced in Shri Ram Chandra Mission. It is a simple, subtle, safe and sure method which takes the aspirant towards human perfection in the shortest possible duration. The greatest advantage in this path is that, the guru or the Master or the guide, whatever one may call him, takes the responsibility of transforming an individual into a perfect human being without much effort on the part of the practitioner. This is made possible through the unique method adopted by the Master, which is termed ‘Pranahuti’ in Sahaj Marg. Pranahuti means ‘offering one’s life energy’. The Master, offers his own life-energy, directs it to the hearts of the disciple through his will power, and awakens the Soul which lies dormant in the heart of the seeker. The seeker has just to receive it in his heart, which he can feel once he turns his attention inwardly. The Pranahuti is defined as “The utilization of the divine energy for the transformation of man”. Sahaj Marg does not bar any one from experiencing this divine energy. Any one without any barrier of colour, caste, creed, sex, religion, nationality etc., can derive the benefit of the Master’s services, without paying anything in return!
Now, naturally a question arises whether this is true or just a fancy. Is there any such reference in early texts on Yoga where such phenomenon was available in ancient times(7) ? The answer is ‘Yes’. We do have many such references in ancient texts where the Yogic energy or the divine energy was transmitted by the teacher to the disciple, resulting in the transformation of the latter. We shall see just a few of them here.
The Yoga Vasishtha, ascribed to the legendary saint Valmiki (who wrote the Ramayana), contains reference of the great saint Vasishtha transforming his disciple lord Rama at once, using this method of transmission. Here three methods of Yogic transmission, viz., by touch, by sight and through words are mentioned(8) . The Sutasamhita, which forms part of Skandapurana, which is at least one thousand five hundreds years old, adds one more to the above list. It includes transmission through will power (or thought) and says that this is the subtlest and the highest method of transmission. It may be pointed here that Sahaj Marg adopts the same method.
In ancient and medieval Sufi systems, this technique of transmission from the heart was known as Tavajjhoh. It may also be noted that ancient Chinese Buddhism also contains references to such practices. The 9th -10th cent A.D. text on Kashmir Saivism also contains references to such method of Yogic transmission adopted by the Master in effecting spiritual evolution of the disciples.
Lord Krishna transmitted the divine energy to Arjuna on the battle field and made him an immortal hero, as can be seen from the great epic Mahabharata.
In recent times, 19th cent, A.D. the great Master of Bengal, Swami Ramakrishna Paramahamsa transformed his disciple, Narendranath into a Yogi of immortal fame viz., Swami Vivekananda, through the method of transmission of divine energy, Such is the efficiency of this method. The tradition has continued from generation to generation for thousands of years.
In the 19th cent. A.D. the great saint Shri Ram Chandraji Maharaj of Fategarh (U.P.) (1873-1931) affectionately called Lalaji by his disciples, made this process available to all human kind in great numbers. He is rightly called as the first guru of the Sahaj Marg system and it is in his name that Shri Ram Chandra Mission was established in 1945 A.D., by his dearest disciple and successor, who also bore the same name (i.e. Shri Ram Chandraji). This illustrious personality was born in 1899 in Shahjahanpur (U.P.) in India. He established this Mission in remembrance of his Master and travelled to many parts of India and abroad to offer spiritual service to all human beings without expecting anything in return. Such was his devotion to his Master that he continued to serve everyone without any distinction, till his last moment in this mortal world, which he left in 1983. His followers affectionately called him Babuji.
Babuji’s most devoted disciple and successor Shri Parthasarathi Rajagopalachari, affectionately known as Chariji, was born in 1927 near Chennai in South India. He was mainly instrumental in spreading the noble teachings of the earlier Masters in more than 80 countries, spread over all the continents of this world (9).
All the Masters lead a simple life, true to the term Sahaj Marg, which literally means ‘The natural path’. There are no religious dogmas, rigorous rituals, preaching of sermons and so on in this method. It is simple, subtle and any one who has the willingness to transform himself into a perfect human being can experience its efficacy.
Sahaj Marg does not condemn any religion but goes beyond the religious precepts and unites all the people. It is said that ‘religion divides people but spirituality unites people’.
Another notable point in Sahaj Marg is that it offers the same practice to all the people without any reservation.
It may also be noted that the women get the same equal status as men in this system, unlike the ancient spiritual systems.
Yet another unique aspect of Sahaj Marg is that it does not recommend any one to renounce the family life, as advocated by many schools of Indian philosophy where the life of the renunciate or mendicant is a must for spiritual pursuit, as is the case in Hinduism, Buddhism, and Jainism. On the other hand, Sahaj Marg says that one should neglect neither the worldly life nor the spiritual life. In fact it says that ‘the material life and the spiritual life should go hand in hand, like two wings of a bird, equally glittering.’
The Pranahuti, the unique flow of transmission from the Master to the millions of aspirants, plays an important role in the evolution of man into a perfect human being. It checks the mental tendency from going astray and helps one to regulate his mind, and thereby his senses and activities, thus bringing him into a state of perfect balance and moderation. This is one of the definitions of the term Yoga, given by the lord in the Bhagavad-Gita (II.48).
It can be seen from the above brief discussion that Sahaj Marg is a modified system of Raja Yoga, built firmly on the noble principles enunciated in ancient scriptures. It is to be noted that the base or foundation, without any structure built over it, is useless. Also no structure without any firm foundation will last long. Both should be equally strong for giving shelter and peace to people who live within it. This world is the home built with love and sacrifice by the great Masters, where we all live. May this world ever remain an abode of peace and love.
This is technically known as Saktipata. In early and later Tamil texts on Saivism, this was called Saktinipatam