Sahaj Marg - A Holistic Approach
"Sahaj Marg is a modified and simplified system of Raja Yoga."
But what exactly does "modified and simplified" mean? Even more importantly, is it really necessary to know these concepts? The answer for the last question is, "Yes."
Sahaj Marg as a remodeled and simplified system of Raja Yoga begins directly from the seventh step of Patanjali’s Ashtanga Yoga.
Although Raja Yoga by itself is considered to be the most effective of all paths, it suffers from an obvious disadvantage: Even with one hundred percent sincerity, the aspirant has to start from the first step and devote enormous amounts of time, effort, and practice to reach the state of samadhi. In today's world, such rigorous practice is impossible for the average person, except for those who are willing to live in seclusion.
The Sahaj Marg system has evolved an easily practicable yogic method designed for the average man — whatever be his education, whatever be his racial antecedents, whatever be his profession, and without differences of sex — so that the ultimate goal is brought nearer to the whole of mankind. It is not restricted as it was in the past to a few members of the elite society.
The Sahaj Marg system is unique among Indian yogic systems because it is a system specially developed for the average householder. My Master believes that the normalization of all functions leads to saintliness. Every faculty in-built in man has its legitimate function, and must be used in the performance of that function. Sahaj Marg therefore does not teach or prescribe celibacy but it does teach that a normalization of the generative function is essential. Master teaches that it is in the world of the family that almost all human qualities are perfected, including such diverse ones as the capacity for love, the capacity for renunciation, the capacity for taking on responsibility, the capacity for social function in a group, and so on.
According to Babuji:
Under the Sahaj Marg system of training we start from Dhyana, the seventh step of [Ashtanga] Yoga, fixing our mind on the point in order to practise meditation. The previous steps are not taken separately but they automatically come into practice as we proceed on with meditation. Thus, much of our time and labor is saved by this means (CW I, p. 100, 101).
The various successive steps of yoga laid down in Patanjali's system are all included in the one routine process under the system of Sahaj Marg and are covered by the abhyasi without undergoing each one separately. But since that is possible only through the help of [the Master's] Pranahuti, I wish more and more abhyasis to come up to it and be profited thereby (CW II, p. 99).
Question: By starting with the seventh step of meditation directly in Sahaj Marg, are we ignoring the first six steps of the ashtanga yoga which were considered essential in the past?
No. By starting directly with dhyana, we are focusing on the most important feature of Ashtanga Yoga: Sahaj Marg does not impose any artificial and strict regimentation on the individual's life, though there are some basic and absolutely natural rules to be followed. Master states very categorically that the purification of the human system must begin with the mind, and once the mind is purified, the physical aspects of man's existence cannot help being purified because right thinking must lead to right conduct. Thus all the prescribed norms of human behavior become not only possible but are naturally established in the individual's life. The conflicts and travails that normally attend on the practice of yoga under the earlier systems are therefore absent in Sahaj Marg.
In our Sahaj Marg system, all that you are asked to do is to sit comfortably, close your eyes and do this meditation. My Master states that as one progresses in meditation, the body acquires for itself a posture of repose and tranquility which it can hold for the length of time necessary, and therefore, asana becomes established in a natural manner. Similarly, as meditation progresses, our experience testifies to the fact that breathing slows down and assumes a natural cycle, natural to that state of existence, and so pranayama becomes established.
Under my Master's direction, as the pupil progresses in meditation, purification of the heart proceeds automatically and mental processes are purified, which in turn results in pure action, and therefore yama and niyama, the first two stages of Patanjali's yoga, also become established naturally.
As yet another result of meditation, the mind becomes used to thinking about one fixed thing, and as the mind's capacity grows, the power of concentration becomes established, and this capacity grows so that it results finally in a stage where concentration becomes natural, and thus pratyahara and dharana aspects of yoga also become established.
Thus by commencing at the seventh stage of Patanjalis' ashtanga yoga under the guidance of an able Master (i.e., one who can transmit and remove even the deepest of impressions), the earlier six stages become naturally established without any undue physical or mental effort on the part of the practicant being necessary.
In Sahaj Marg, an aspirant does not have much to do with the eighth stage, samadhi, as it follows automatically. Samadhi is a state where the human consciousness may be said to have lapsed into total quiescence. Here, a state of existence called Sahaj samadhi, or natural samadhi, is offered where, while the individual exists at a stage of consciousness which may be said to be superhuman, or non-human if you prefer it, the lower mind or the normal human mind also continues to be aware of all that is going on around it, but without being affected by the environment in any way. There is therefore no exclusion of the external world, but there is an all-enveloping samadhi which embraces everything in the world or universe, while being himself (the practicant) entirely absorbed in Himself, and also simultaneously aware of the cosmic totality. My Master states that this is a higher stage of existence than the state of samadhi as traditionally taught.
SAHAJ MARG IS HOLISTIC, INTEGRATING THE FOUR MAIN BRANCHES OF YOGA
Though Sahaj Marg is essentially a system of Raja Yoga, its practice has been designed in such a way that as the abhyasi progresses with the help of the transmitted power of a worthy Master, a complete integration of one's personality results, and there exists a co-working of bhakti (love and devotion), karma (duty or action), and jnana (knowledge or wisdom) — the three main branches of yoga (see Figure 2).
Babuji writes that some people approach through the practice of karma (action), others through bhakti (devotion), still others set aside either of these and proceed through the medium of gnana (knowledge). In fact, however, the stages of karma, upasana (devotional practice), and gnana are not essentially different from one another, but are rather closely interrelated and exist together in one and the same state. In Sahaj Marg, they are taken up together most efficiently, creating automatically the state of Viveka (discrimination) and Vairagya (renunciation) in the true sense.
Figure 2. The Integrative Approach of Sahaj Marg