Fourteen Lessons in Yogi Philosphy and Oriental Occultism
by Yogi Ramacharaka
The Yogi Path of Attainment
THE student who has carefully acquainted himself with the fundamental principles of the Yogi Philosophy, as set forth in these lessons, will readily see that anyone who grasps and accepts these teachings, and makes them a part of his everyday life, will naturally live a very different life from one to whom this present earth-life is all, and who believes that death extinguishes individuality, and that there is no future life or lives. It will also lead one to live his life rather differently from the person who believes that we are but creatures of a rather capricious Providence, having but little responsibility of our own, and that our "salvation" depends upon a perfunctory "belief" in certain teachings, and a set form of attendance at certain forms of religious worship. Remember, now, please, that the Yogi Philosophy has no fault to find with any form of religion—it teaches that all forms of religion are good, and each has its particular place to fill—each fills the need of humanity in some of its stages. It believes that no matter what form of worship is followed—no matter what conception of Deity is held—that every man really worships the One Great Intelligence, which we know under many names, and that the varying forms of such worship are immaterial, the motive behind each being the real test to be applied.
But the Yogi Philosophy, and, in fact, the teachings of all occultists, to whatever race they may belong, or what particular creed may be favored by them, hold that man is a responsible being, that he really makes his own conditions and bestows his own rewards and punishments, as a natural consequence of his acts. It also teaches that man cannot escape his own good, and that though he may slip backward a hundred times, still will he always make some little progress, and in the end will conquer his material nature, and then move steadily forward to the great goal. It teaches that we are all God's children, no matter what form of worship we may favor—that there are none of God's children destined to be utterly cut off or damned. It teaches that we are punished by our sins instead of for them, and that the law of cause and effect brings its inevitable result. It emphasizes the teachings that "as we sow so shall we reap," and shows just how and why we reap what we have sown. It shows how our lower desires and passions will weigh us down, and surround us with environments that will cause us to outlive them, and make us so thoroughly sick and tired of them that the soul will, eventually, recoil in horror from its past life of material grossness, and in so doing will receive an impetus in the right direction. It shows us that we have the Spirit always with us, anxious and willing to give us help and guidance, and that, through the Spirit, we are always in close connection with the source of all life and power.
Men are of varying temperaments, and the course that will best suit one will not be adapted to the requirements of another. One will seek progress and development in one direction, and another in a different way, and a third by a still different course. The Yogi Philosophy teaches that the way that seems to appeal the most to a man's general temperament and disposition is the one best adapted to his use at the present time. They divide the Path of Attainment into three paths leading up to the great main road. They call these three paths, (1) Raja Yoga; (2) Karma Yoga; (3) Gnani Yoga; each of these forms of Yoga being a path leading to the Great Road, and each being traveled by those who may prefer it—but all lead to the same place. In this lesson we will give a brief description of each of the three paths, which together are known to the Yogis as "The Threefold Path."
Some of the teachers treat what is known as "Bhakti Yoga" as if it were a separate path, but we prefer thinking of it as being an incident of each of the three paths, as "Bhakti Yoga" is really what we might call the "religious" form of Yoga, teaching the love and worship of God, according to how he appears to us through the colored glasses of our own particular creed. We fail to see how one may follow any of the several Yoga paths without being filled with love and reverence for the great Centre of all Life—the Absolute—God—by whatever name we know it. The term "Bhakti Yoga" really means the "way of devotion." Let us trust that all our students, no matter which of the three paths they may elect to follow, will carry with them the devotion inculcated in the "Bhakti Yoga" of the particular religious body with which they are affiliated, and not feel that the "Threefold Path" calls for their renouncing that which has been dear to them from childhood. On the contrary, we think that a careful study of the Yogi Philosophy will awaken a new interest in religion, and cause many to understand much that they formerly but blindly "believed," and will cause them to develop a deeper religious spirit, rather than a lesser one.
"Raja Yoga" is devoted to the development of the latent powers in Man—the gaining of the control of the mental faculties by the Will—the attainment of the mastery of the lower self—the development of the mind to the end that the soul may be aided in its unfoldment. It teaches as its first step the care and control of the body, as taught in "Hatha Yoga," holding that the body should be rendered an efficient instrument, and under good control, before the best results may be attained along mental and psychic lines. Much that the Western World has been attracted to in late years under the name of "Mental Science" and similar terms, really comes under the head of "Raja Yoga." This form of Yoga recognizes the wonderful power of the trained mind and will, and the marvelous results that may be gained by the training of the same, and its application by concentration, and intelligent direction. It teaches that not only may the mind be directed outward, influencing outside objects and things, but that it may also be turned inward, and concentrated upon the particular subject before us, to the end that much hidden knowledge may be unfolded and uncovered. Many of the great inventors are really practicing "Raja Yoga" unconsciously, in this inward application of it, while many leaders in the world of affairs are making use of its outward, concentrated application in their management of affairs.
But the follower of the "Raja Yoga" path is not content alone with the attainment of powers for either of the above uses. He seeks still greater heights, and manages by the same, or similar processes, to turn the searchlight of concentrated mind into his own nature, thus bringing to light many hidden secrets of the soul. Much of the Yogi Philosophy has really been brought to light in this way. The practice of "Raja Yoga” is eminently practical, and is in the nature of the study and practice of chemistry—it proves itself as the student takes each step. It does not deal in vague theories, but teaches experiments and facts from first to last. We hope to be able to give to our students, in the near future, a practical work on the subject of "Hatha Yoga," for which work there seems to be a great need in the Western world, which seems to be waiting to be told "how" to do those things which have been stated to be possible by numerous writers who had grasped the theory but had not acquainted themselves with the practice accompanying the theory.
"Karma Yoga" is the "Yoga" of Work. It is the path followed by those who delight in their work—who take a keen interest in "doing things” with head or hand—those who believe in work "for work's sake." "Karma" is the Sanscrit word applied to the "Law of Spiritual Cause and Effect," of which we have spoken in a preceding lesson. "Karma Yoga" teaches how one may go through life working—and taking an interest in action—without being influenced by selfish consideration, which might create a fresh chain of cause and effect which would bind him to objects and things, and thus retard his spiritual progress. It teaches "work for work's sake" rather than from a desire for results. Strange as this may seem to many of our Western readers, it is a fact that many of the men of the Western world who have accomplished much, have really been possessed of this idea, without realizing it and have really worked for the joy of the action and. creative effort, and have really cared but little for the fruit of their labors. Some of them say that they "have worked because they could not help it," rather than from the mere desire for material gain. The follower of "Karma Yoga," seems to himself, at times, as if he were not the real worker, but that his mind and body were doing the work, and he, —himself—were standing off and watching himself work or act. There are lower and higher phases of "Karma Yoga", which cannot be explained here, as each branch of Yoga is a great subject in itself.
"Gnani Yoga" is the "Yoga" of Wisdom. It is followed by those of a scientific, intellectual type, who are desirous of reasoning out, proving, experimenting, and classifying the occult knowledge. It is the path of the scholar. Its follower is strongly attracted toward metaphysics. Examples of the idea of "Gnani Yogi"—apparently widely differing examples—are to be seen in the great philosophers of ancient and modern times, and in the other extreme, those who have a strong tendency toward metaphysical teachings. As a matter of fact, nearly all students of the Yogi Philosophy are more or less attracted to "Gnani Yoga", even though they be said to be following one of the other of the three paths. These lessons, for instance, are a part of the "Gnani Yoga" work, although they are combined with other forms of Yoga. Many Yogis combine in themselves the attributes of the followers of several forms of Yoga, although their natural tendencies cause them to favor one of the paths more than the others.
Of the three forms of Yoga, the second, or "Karma Yoga" is perhaps the easiest one to follow, for the student. It requires less study, and less practice—less of the research of "Gnani Yoga", and less of the training of "Raja Yoga." The Karma Yogi simply tries to lead a good life, doing his work to the best of his ability, without being carried away with the hope of reward—he grows into a realization of the truth regarding his nature, and is content to gradually unfold, like a rose, from life to life, until he reaches a high stage of attainment. He does not long for unusual powers, and consequently does not endeavor to develop them. He does not long for the solution of the great problems of nature and life, but is content to live on, one day at a time, knowing and trusting that all will be well with him—and it will. Many of the "New Thought" people of, America, are really Karma Yogis. The Raja Yogi, on the contrary, feels a desire to develop his latent powers and to make researches into his own mind. He wishes to manifest hidden powers and faculties, and feels a keen longing to experiment along these lines. He is intensely interested in psychology and "psychic phenomena", and all occult phenomena and teachings along similar lines. He is able to accomplish much by determined effort, and often manifests wonderful results by means of the concentrated will and mind. The Gnani Yogi's chief pleasure consists in metaphysical reasoning, or subtle intellectual research. He is the philosopher; scholar; preacher; teacher; student; and often goes to extreme lengths in following his favorite line of work, losing sight of the other sides of the subject.
The man best calculated to make general advancement along occult lines is the one who avoids running to extremes in any one of the branches of the subject, but who, while in the main following his own inclinations toward certain forms of "Yoga", still keeps up a general acquaintance with the several phases of the great philosophy. In the end, man must develop on alt his many sides, and why not keep in touch with all sides while we journey along. By following this course we avoid onesidedness; fanaticism; narrowness; short-sighted-ness, and bigotry.
Yogi students may be divided into three general classes: (1) Those who have made considerable progress along the same lines, in past incarnations, and who have awakened to consciousness in the present life with the strongest tendencies toward occultism and similar subjects. These people learn rapidly and are conscious of the fact that they are but relearning some lesson learned in the past. They grasp occult truths intuitively and find in such studies food for the hunger of the soul. These souls are, of course, in various stages of development. Some have but an elementary acquaintance with the subject, their knowledge in the past incarnation having been but slight; others have progressed further, and are able to go much further in their present work than those who are less developed; still others are quite highly developed, and lack but little of having reached the "conscious” stage of incarnation, that is, the state of being able to awaken to a conscious knowledge of past lives. The last mentioned sub-class are apt to be regarded as "queer" by their associates, particularly in early life—they appear "old" and "strange" to their companions. They feel as if they were strangers in a strange land, but sooner or later are sure to be brought into contact with others, or made acquainted with teachings, which will enable then to take up their studies again.
(2) Those who awaken to a conscious knowledge, to a greater or lesser degree, of their past lives, and what they have learned there. Such people are comparatively rare, and yet there are far more of them than is generally supposed, for these people are not apt to bestow their confidence upon chance acquaintances, and generally regard their knowledge and memory of the past as something sacred. These people go through the world, sowing a little seed here, and a little there, which seed falling on fertile ground bears fruit in the future incarnations of those who receive them.
(3) Those who have heard some occult truths in past incarnations—some words of wisdom, knowledge or advice dropped by some of those who have advanced further along the path. In their mental soil, if rich, they let these seed-thoughts sink deep into them, and in the next life the plant appears. These people are possessed of an unrest, which makes them dissatisfied with the current explanations of things, and which causes them to search here and there for the truth, which they intuitively know is to be found somewhere. They are often led to run after false prophets, and from one teacher to another, gaining a little truth here, having an error corrected there. Sooner or later they find an anchorage, and in their rest they lay up stores of knowledge, which (after being digested in the period of soul-rest in the Astral World) will be of great value to them in their next incarnation.
It will be readily recognized that it is practically impossible to give detailed directions suited for the varying needs of these different students. All that can be done (outside of personal instruction from some competent teacher) is to give words of general advice and encouragement. But do not let this discourage you. Remember this—it is a great occult truth—when the student is ready the teacher appears—the way will be opened to you step by step, and as each new spiritual need comes into existence, the means to satisfy it will be on the way. It may come from without—it may come from within—but come it will. Do not let discouragement creep over you because you seem to be surrounded by the most unfavorable environments, with no one near to whom you can talk of these great truths that are unfolding before your mental vision. This isolation is probably just what you need in order to make you self-reliant and to cure you of that desire to lean upon some other soul. We have these lessons to learn—and many others—and the way that seems hardest for us to travel is very often the one laid out for us, in order that we may learn the needed lesson well and "for good."
It follows that one who has grasped the fundamental ideas of this philosophy will begin to find Fear dropping from him—for when he realizes just what he is, how can he fear? There being nothing that is able to really hurt him, why should he fear? Worry, of course, follows after Fear, and when Fear goes, many other minor mental faults follow after it. Envy, Jealousy and Hate—Malice, Uncharitableness and Condemnation—cannot exist in the mind of one who "understands". Faith and Trust in the Spirit, and that from which the Spirit comes, must be manifest to the awakened soul. Such a one naturally recognizes the Spirit's guidance, and unhesitatingly follows it, with fear—without doubt. Such a one cannot help being Kind—to him the outside world of people seem to be as little children (many of them like babes unborn) and he deals with them charitably, not condemning them in his heart, for he knows them for what they are. Such a one performs the work which is set before him, knowing that such work, be it humble or exalted, has been brought to him by his own acts and desires, or his needs—and that it is all right in any event, and is but the stepping-stone to greater things. Such a one does not fear Life—does not fear Death—both seem as but differing manifestations of the same thing—one as good as the other.
The student who expects to make progress, must make his philosophy a part of his every day life. He must carry it around with him always. This does not mean that he should thrust his views and opinions upon others—in fact, that is expressly contrary to occult teachings, for no one has the right to force opinions upon others, and it is contrary to natural growth and freedom of the individual soul. But the student should be able to carry with him an abiding sense of the reality and truth of his philosophy. He need not be afraid to take it with him anywhere, for it fits into all phases of life. If one cannot take it with him to work, something is wrong with either the philosophy or the work, or the individual. And it will help us to work better—to do more earnest work—for we know that the work is necessary for the development of some part of us—otherwise it would not be set before us—and no matter how disagreeable the task, we may be able to sing with joy when we realize just what we are and what great things are before us. The slave chained to the galley—if he have peace in his soul and the knowledge in his mind—is far less to be pitied than the king on his throne who lacks these things. We must not shirk our tasks, not run away from our destiny—for we cannot really get rid of them except by performing them. And these very disagreeable things are really strengthening our character, if we are learning our lesson aright. And then, remember "even these things shall pass away."
One of the greatest hindrances to the progress of the student into the higher stages of occultism, particularly the phenomenal phases, is the lack of self-control. When one wishes to be placed in possession of power, which, if carelessly used or misused, may result in the hurt of oneself or others, it is the greatest importance that such a one should have attained the mastery of self—the control of the emotional side of his nature. Imagine a man possessed of high occult powers losing his temper and flying into a rage, sending forth vibrations of Hate and Anger intensified by the increased force of his developed powers. Such exhibitions, in a man who has attained occult powers, would be very harmful to him, as they would, perhaps, be manifested upon a plane where such things have an exaggerated effect. A man whose investigations lead him on to the Astral Plane, should beware of such a loss of self-control, as a failing of this kind might be fatal to him. But, so nicely is the world of the higher forces balanced that a man of violent temper, or one who lacks self-control, can make but little progress in occult practices—this being a needed check. So one of the first things to be accomplished by the student who wishes to advance is the mastery of his emotional nature and the acquirement of self-control.
A certain amount of courage of the higher sort is also needed, for one experiences some strange sights and happenings on the astral plane, and those who wish to travel there must have learned to master fear. One also needs calmness and poise. When we remember that worry and kindred emotions cause vibrations around us, it may readily be seen that such conditions of mind are not conducive to psychical research—in fact the best results cannot be obtained when these things are present.
The occultist who wishes to attain great powers must first purge himself of selfish grasping for these things for the gratification of his own base ends, for the pursuit of occult powers with this desire will bring only pain and disappointment and the one who attempts to prostitute psychic power for base ends will bring upon himself a whirlwind of undesirable results. Such forces, when misused, react as a boomerang upon the sender. The true occultist is filled with love and brotherly feeling for his fellow men, and endeavors to aid them instead of to beat them down in their progress.
Of all the numerous books written for the purpose of throwing light on the path of the student of occultism, we know of none better fitted for the purpose than that wonderful little book called "Light on the Path", written down by "M. C.", at the instigation of some intelligences far above the ordinary. It is veiled in the poetic style common to the Orientals, and at first glance may seem paradoxical. But it is full of the choicest bits of occult wisdom, for those who are able to read it. It must be read "between the lines", and it has a peculiarity that will become apparent to any one who may read it carefully. That is, it will give you as much truth as you are able to grasp to-day; and tomorrow when you pick it up it will give you more, from the same lines. Look at it a year from now, and new truths will burst upon you—and so on, —and on. It contains statements of truth so wonderfully stated—and yet half-concealed—that as you advance in spiritual discernment—and are ready for greater truths each day—you will find that in this book veil after veil will be lifted from before the truth, until you are fairly dazzled. It is also remarkable as a book which will give consolation to those in trouble or sorrow. Its words (even though they be but half-understood) will ring in the ears of its readers, and like a beautiful melody will soothe and comfort and rest those who hear it. We advise all of our students to read this little book often and with care. They will find that it will describe various spiritual experiences through which they will pass, and will prepare them for the next stage. Many of our students have asked us to write a little book in the way of an elementary explanation of "Light on the Path"—perhaps the Spirit may lead us to do so at some time in the future—perhaps not.
It is not without a feeling of something like sad~ ness that we write these concluding lines. When we wrote our First Lesson, we bade our students be seated for a course of talks—plain and simple— upon a great subject. Our aim was to present these great truths in a plain, practical simple manner, so that many would take an interest in them, and be led toward higher presentations of the truth. We have felt that love and encouragement, which is so necessary for a teacher, and have been assured of the sympathy of the Class from the first. But, on looking over our work it seems that we have said so little—have left unsaid so much—and yet we have done the best we could, considering the small space at our disposal and the immense field to be covered. We feel that we have really only begun, and yet it is now time to say "good-bye". Perhaps we have made some points a little clear to a few who have been perplexed—perhaps we have opened a door to those who were seeking entrance to the temple—who knows? If we have done even a little for only one person, our time has been well spent.
At some future time we may feel called upon to pass on to you a higher and more advanced presentation of this great subject—that is a matter which depends much upon your own desires—if you need us you will find us ready and willing to join you in the study of the great truths of the Yogi Philosophy. But, before you take the next step onward, be sure that you understand these elementary lessons thoroughly. Go over and over them, until your mind has fully grasped the principles. You will find new features presenting themselves with each reading. As your minds unfold, you will find new truths awaiting you even in the same pages that you have read and re-read several times. This, not because of any special merit in our work (for this work is crude, very crude, to our idea), but because of the inherent truth of the philosophy itself, which renders any thing written upon it to be filled with subject for thought and earnest consideration.
Good-bye dear students. We thank you for your kindness in listening to us during the term of this Class. We have felt your sympathy and love, as many of you must have felt ours. We feel sure that as you read these lines—filled with our earnest thoughts of kinship to you—you will feel our nearness to you in the Spirit—will be conscious of that warm hand-clasp which we extend to you across the miles that separate us in the flesh.
Remember these words, from "Light on the Path": "When the disciple is ready to learn, then he is accepted, acknowledged, recognized. It must be so, for he has lit his lamp and it cannot be hidden."