Advaita Atma Yoga - The double approach

Self-realization is the main goal of human life; i.e. the realization that we are eternal Being and awareness (Atman or Brahman) and not this body-mind entity conditioned by the egoic tendencies. Our true Self or Atman* is eternal Existence and consciousness or awareness; It is Satchitananda*, Advaita*  (non-dual) and beyond form, time, space and causality.  

Realizing that we are the ever free, peaceful and blissful Consciousness (Atman) our deepest aspirations of freedom, expansion, immortality, wisdom, unconditional love, peace and happiness without limits are fulfilled; we are free from all suffering and we live effortlessly an without a break the peace, bliss and freedom eternal and we express the divine qualities in the world, (peace, love, harmony, wisdom, creativity and beauty).

Advaita Atma Yoga - The double approach

Advaita Atma Yoga is an integral approach based on the principles of Advaita Vedanta and the main paths of yoga* but represents these ancient teachings in a way more digestible and comprehensible for the people of this modern age. In this integral yoga it is recommended a sattvic way of living and is provided all necessary knowledge, practices and methods to facilitate the transformation of our lower nature and the realization of our true nature.

Advaita Atma Yoga takes account of the eight step process of Raga Yoga* as well as the sadhana Chatustaya of Jnana Yoga* but approaches these models with a new way which I call, ‘The double approach’.

 Advaita Atma Yoga it is called ‘The double approach’ because from the beginning of the spiritual journey works on two directions:  the exploration, transformation and development of the lower self and the inquiry,  recognition and connection with higher or true Self. From the beginning we apply techniques and methods for the exploration, purification, transformation and development of the lower self (body, prana, mind, intellect) and methods and techniques to rediscover, recognize and live aware of our essence or true Self. 
Although the final goal of every path of yoga is Self-realization, Advaita Atma Yoga suggests ‘The double approach’ as a more balanced and  integral way. It considers as very important both: the holistic, harmonious and balanced development of all levels of our existence: physical, vital, emotional, mental and intellectual level, and at the same time, the rediscovery, recognition and awakening to our true nature (Atman, Consciousness, Awareness).  As a bird needs two wings to fly, similarly we need both, the harmonious development of our lower nature and a conscious living from our essence.

The work related to our lower self

In relation with the lower self the goal is to know and understand how function the body, the senses, the prana (vital energy), the emotions and feelings (heart), the thinking mind, and the intellect, to purify them from the egoic energies and tendencies, to create balance at all levels, to transform our energies and develop the higher capacities of prana, heart, mind and intellect.

Αll levels of human existence are interrelated and interact between each other; thus the work we do with each one of them has also impact to all others. The purification of the body and vital energy for example facilitate the purification of the emotions and mind and the opposite. The development of one capacity or virtue facilitates the development of all others. Only our true Self (Awareness) is unaffected by the other levels of our existence but it is the One that influence all others and facilitate decisively their purification, equilibration and development.  

This process of purification and self-transformation is done by various methods and techniques which are related with all aspects of our existence, physical, vital, emotional, mental, intellectual and causal.
Some of the important practices are: Self-enquiry, discriminative detached observation, investigation, observation, control of senses, feeding mind and senses with proper (sattvic) impressions, proper diet, sattvic living, study, pranayama, hatha yoga asanas, Hrany yoga, reflection, meditation, auto-analysis, introspection, Japa nama, prayer, kirtan, devotion, study, transformation of sexual energy. By these practices the mind is purified, and the higher capacities of heart and mind are developed.

Three levels of purification and equilibration

The whole process of yoga is a preparation of the internal instrument - named Antahkarana - {which is fourfold: manas (mind), buddhi (intellect), ahamkara (ego) and chitta (subconscious mind)}, in order to be able practice effectively Self-enquiry, meditation and samadhi. Only a pure, sattvic, dispassionate, discriminating, detached, introverted, one-pointed, serene mind can be awakened and reflect clearly the Divine Consciousness as well as express the divine qualities in the world, (peace, love, harmony, wisdom, creativity and beauty). 

Since the most difficult part of the spiritual process is the purification of the lower self and since body, prana, sexual, energy, mind, heart and intellect are interconnected and interrelated between each other, (the one is affected by the function of the others), Advaita Atma Yoga considers "the three level purification", as the most effective way or method of their purification and equilibration.

This is an holistic process to purify our Antahkarana that is working 'simultaneously' from three levels. 
1. On the body-vital energy level (the physical prana and the psychic prana)
2. On the mind -intellect level
3. On the awareness level which is at the center of all practices.

To succeed in this purificatory process, it is suggested a variety of techniques and methods that make this process very effective and accelerating. Of course the most important factor in the spiritual journey is the aspirant not the method or the techniques. Νo practice by itself can give significant results; it is the aspiration, the motivation, the intention, the faith and self-confidence, the attitude, the sincere constant and intense practice of the practitioner, with patience, tenacity and perseverance that brings great results. 

The Divine Mother or Shakti
 
All spiritual process, (the purification, transformation and the development of higher capacities) is a work of the intelligent-power of the Divine Shakti, even though we may not know this, or we are not conscious of it. All purificatory and transformative practices as well as all the practices that are related to our true nature (Consciousness or Atman), are possible thanks to the Divine Mother or Shakti, the intelligent power of the universe. 
Since the Divine Shakti is the intelligence, the energy and the power behind our transformation it is suggested to connect with the Divine Shakti and invoke Her help us purify and transform our lower nature and illuminate our mind and intellect.
There is a variety of practices related to the Divine Mother by which we can purify and transform our lower nature as well as activate the higher capacities of our prana, mind, intellect and the centers of consciousness (chakras). 
The main practices with the Divine Mother are: prayers, recitation of mantras, recitation of stotras, recitation of Her divine names, singing Shakti-kirtans, the fire ceremony (Yagna), the Suria yoga or Sun gazing, transformation of sexual energy through special practices that include mantra and pranayama.
Our devotion to the Divine Mother should be accompanied by faith and trust to Her power, guidance and protection until the ultimate step of the final release.
 
The work related to our Higher Self (Consciousness, Atman)

In relation to our true Self the goal is to recognize our essential or Divine nature, to live as much as possible connected with our essence, to facilitate the awakening and finally be established on our true Self (Atman). 
In order to succeed in this endeavor, are suggested various methods and techniques, like the study of literature about the nature of our true Self, reflection, contemplation, detachment or disidentifation from the mind, discriminating observation in order to discern (between the Self and the non-self), Self-enquiry and meditation. All these help us to recognize our essence or Self (Atman), to develop self-awareness and finally wake up and rest as awareness. 
  The development of Self-awareness, from the beginning of the journey is considered as a crucial part of our sadhana not only because we live aware and aligned with our true nature, but also because enables us to disidentify from the emotional and thinking mind and develop detached self-observation which is a necessary step in the process of the discover and the dissolution of the egoic tendencies, desires and the ego itself. 

Considering health as an important factor of well being and spiritual growth are indicated also ayurvedic principles and applications as well as methods of natural healing, aiming the maintenance of good physical health and vitality and the reestablishment of psychological harmony and balance. Good health and psychological harmony are the foundations for the individual and social well being as well as for Sel-realization.

Glossary

Advaita: Not two. This idea indicates the non-dual nature of our true Self (Atman), and its identity with the universal Self (Brahman). Does not exist two Beings or Selves, the Universal Self and the individual Self. There is only one Self undivided and universal and appears to be individual due to its conjunction with the human mind and the veil of ignorance that covers his true nature.

Atman: Atman is called our true Self which is identical with the Universal Self which is named Brahman. ‘Ayam Atma Brahma’, (The individual Self-Atman is one and the same with the absolute –Brahman), is one of the great mahavaykas of Upanishads that establish the identity of Atman with Brahman.

Yoga: Means union with the true Self or God. We call Yoga the realization that we are one with God but we call also yoga the process to achieve this realization of unity or identity with God. The main paths of Yoga are: Karma, Raja, Bhakti and Jnana Yoga.

Sat-chit-ananda:
Sat is the Truth Existence absolute, Exist in eternity, never ceases to be.
Chit is Consciousness or Awareness absolute. Atman is self-luminous therefore does not need any other factor to know Itself.
Ananda is Bliss Absolute. The very nature of Atman is Bliss without limits.

Raja Yoga or Astangha Yoga*: The eight steps of Raja Yoga are: (Yama, Niyama, Asana, Pranayama, Pratyahara, concentration, meditation, Samadhi. (Read more about RAJA YOGA ).

The Sadhana Chatustaya of Jnana Yoga*: Sadhana Chatushtaya or the fourfold means for salvation or the four kinds of spiritual practices, is a pre-requisite to the aspirant in the path of Jnana Yoga (Vedanta), or, for that matter, in any system of evolution towards Godhead. The four means are:

1. Viveka-discrimination between Sat (real) and Asat (unreal).
2. Vairagya-dispassion or indifference to sensual enjoyments herein and hereafter.
3. Shad Sampat (6 virtues):
(a) Sama-peace of mind through eradication of Vasanas.
(b) Dama-control of sense organs.
(c) Uparati-satiety, renunciation of all works (Sannyasa).
(d) Titiksha - forbearance.
(e) Sraddha-faith in scriptures and the Guru's words.
(f) Samadhana-concentration of mind, balance of mind.
 
 4. Mumukshutva-Intense longing for liberation.

The aspirant (of Jnana yoga) who is endowed with all these four qualifications continues under the guidance of a realized sage with SravanaManana and, Nididhyasana

(Read more about Jnana Yoga sadhana and Sadhana Chatustaya : The pre-requisites of the aspirants in the path of Jnana Yoga (Advaita Vedanta)
 
 A.A.Y.A. / Advaita Atma Yoga Academy