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Wednesday, December 28, 2005

Surya namaskaras

December 11, 2005

(I)Hiranmayena patrena satyasyapi hitam mukhamTatwam pushan apavrunu satya dharmaya drishtaye
[He, Sun!,…………]

[Once I happened to visit the saint Pujya Raghavendra Swamiji of Malladihalli in Karnataka. He showed me round the ashram, and finally we reached an underground or the cellar place and he explained that it is a place of his Sadhana and every day he will go there at three in the morning ... I wondered who will call three as morning! And he said he will do his Sadhana until eight and then he will come out. I questioned him can we know about what Sadhana he does. He replied that he does Sunryanamaskars. I asked him how many he will do. He replied, ‘now a days, doctors told him that I have grown old. So I do only two hundred otherwise I would do lot more’. He was at that time ninety five! At ninety five one could do two hundred salutations how effortlessly he must be doing them! Normally in our classes when we ask people to do six they are already exhausted and need Shavasana!He lived for more than hundred years and his life mission was to spread yoga in rural Karnataka and he also runs an orphanage called Anathashrama] Welcome you all to participate in the sun prayer yagna, where we would like to collectively emotionally involve in the practice of sun salutations in various parts of the world in a disciplined way until at least the fourteenth of January which is the day sun changes his position from winter half [ solstice ] to summer half [ solstice ] . In this series I would like to express some of the thoughts about the sun salutations. In the first place sun salutation is a combination of the following practices.

1. It is a combination of several physical postures starting from standing to go to the ‘posture of salutation’ called ‘sastanga namaskarasana’ [sa=together, asta= eight, anga= limb, namaskar= salutation], and coming back retracing the steps back to the standing position.
2. The number of postures involved can be flexible. Different schools adapted different styles and the number can be any thing like ten or twelve or eighteen or thirty six.
3. Before doing the series of postures most of the schools chant a sloka [verse] from the sun prayers or from any of the scriptures like Upanishad which offers prayers to the sun. The sloka given above is taken from the foremost of the Upanishads called ‘ISAVASAYAM’.
4. After the sloka we chant a mantra or a series of mantras associated with the sun god. There are several names of the sun god which are associated with several aspects of him. Out of them twelve mantras are more popularly chanted.
5. The mantra will be followed by the actual positions stiti, the starting position being the namaskara mudra.
6. In every step breathing is associated and the sequence is so designed that it flows freely as we practice.
7. Generally the practices of Suryanamaskara can be done by normal healthy persons. Only those who have hypertension or heat problems have to consult doctor or any expert yoga master before undertaking these practices.

Before we proceed further in discussing about Suryanamaskara let us see why sun god has to be prayed. Some developed this idea that the offering of our prayers to the natural elements such as sun wind etc as god was started those primitive days when science was not developed and he would be facing several natural calamities. Since he does not know the reason for the vagaries of the nature the only thing he could do was call these natural forces as gods and thinking that god is unhappy with people for some reasons he alone knows, he was afraid of god and therefore in order to please god they would offer the prayers. Thus the sun-prayers must have started! To day we know that sun is a star and is not a human-form-divine. Thus people go to god out of fear! This may have been true in some cases but in offering sun salutations it is not the fear which has driven man for sun salutations!Earlier in villages when ever they used to have terrific thunders in the night and one could see the bolts from the blue next morning the head of the village would assemble all the people and tell them, ‘last night god has been displeased with some people in this village so he has sent bolts from the blues. So who so ever has done what so ever mistake, please come forward voluntarily, and confess and seek punishment! With that people would come and disclose all the mistakes they have done with that one benefit are that the villages used to have fewer crimes!But in this part of the world people were not offering sun salutations because of fear of god especially sun god! There are references about the details of the sun as a mass of energy in the space as a sphere and as the center of the solar system. Even there are indications about the approximate distance of the sun from earth. Based on all these details they have invented a very sophisticated calendar system. So there is less possibility that they have offered prayers to sun out of fear. If they have practiced sun salutations it is because of the respect born out of love and recognition. In fear when we go to god, god is not important but when we go to god out of love god becomes important and self is dissolved! Therefore sun salutations have a very deep meaning. Though the practice primarily has the surrender out of love which is enriching emotional experience it still has benefit at all personality levels namely physical, mental, intellectual, emotional and finally at spiritual level. Let us look into various aspects considering one by one.For the benefit of those who do not know about the five level personality let me briefly give some explanation. It is a way of understanding human being as given in the Taittariya Upanishad. When we look at a man from outside we only see the outer of physical personality and its functioning which may be considered as life force. One can also feel the existence of mind and intellectual activity appears as if it the part of the mental faculty and further they do not have any idea about the subtler levels. In the Upanishad there is systematic discussion is about the existence at five levels of subtleties.At the grossest level we are the physical personality which is obviously visible. Immediately at the next level it is called the Prana personality or pranamaya kosa. It is the Prana which is responsible for the functioning aspect of the physical body. Eyes see, ears hear and all activities happen because of Prana only. Therefore pranamaya kosa is more fundamental. Deeper than that is Manomaya kosa or mental personality. When the mind is not there eyes do not see or ears do not hear. So we are basically mental personality which takes the support of body and Prana for giving manifestation to its activity. I think of doing first and then I employ the energy called Prana and the body as instruments. But on close observation we see we are the intellect and we identify with intellect much more than any thing and it is the intellect which also makes the mind to think and thereby function. So it is a general impression that the most important aspect of us is the intellect but intellect also sub-serves another important aspect which is our actual nature which is bliss or happiness. We do all activities for the sake of happiness and if there is no happiness we do not do. But only doubt one can have is that the happiness or bliss appear to be coming from the object and how we can say it is our nature. For that Upanishad recommends us to look at the sleep state. In sleep we experience happiness without any exception and without any object support. In fact an object coming from out side in sleep which may be your choicest, we do not want that, because it also disturbs the joy of sleep. So we can infer that in deep sleep state we are touching our own nature which is coming from within which is ‘bliss’. So deep inside we are bliss personality and only all in all other outer layers we have intellect, mind, Prana and body. Yoga has its approach to help us at all these personality levels namely physical, Prana, mental, intellectual, and spiritual or bliss personalities. I shall deal with all these levels systematically but before proceeding further let me give some hints for the practice.Do it in the empty stomachPeople with complaints of hypertension can do this only after fifteen days of practice of various simple breathing and loosening exercises so that the body can take the strain.Persons with back pain should avoid front bending pose. Instead they should go to next posture.Persons with ear problems or tinnitus or seizers should avoid back bending and those with seizers should not take deep breathing.

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