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The Eight Limbs of Yoga - Dhyana

Updated: May 2

Welcome to this week’s discussion on the guiding principles of the science of Yoga - the Eight Limbs.


This week we discuss and examine the practice of ‘Dhyana’, our penultimate Limb.


Once again, it’s important for us to acknowledge here that whilst the Eight Limbs themselves are easily perceived to be systemic and linear in their approach, there is nothing dogmatic or ‘commandment-like’ in their application.


From my own examination and practice of the Eight Limbs, the Great Sage Patanjali, who wrote the original Yoga Sutras in the early part of the 1st century CE, did not foresee his text becoming the equivalent of a ‘yogic bible’; something to be followed to the letter at the expense of all personal experience.


The Limbs were offered as a simple and profound methodology of cause and effect for all spiritual seekers on the quest for enlightenment and liberation - put simply, “if you practise these disciplines, it is highly likely that this will happen”.


In fact, it’s inevitable.


Dhyana:


‘Dhyana’ means ‘meditation’ or ‘contemplation’; the original Sanskrit can also be translated as ‘reflection’ and stems from a root word meaning ‘imaginative vision’.


Dhyana is the practice of meditation; deep, contemplative, attentive meditation.


All of the preceding Limbs can be viewed as the path towards Dhyana, each practice supporting each other and the aspirant yogi on their journey towards union. The complete science of yoga is fundamentally a practice of meditation; meditation on many subtly different levels and upon many different aspects of ourselves.


Within these blog posts, we have essentially meditated together on many different subjects and examined the guiding principles and ethics of yoga within the framework of our existence and perspective; within the Yamas, we have asked “what does non-violence and truthfulness mean?”; within Asana, “how does my body feel and grow when I perform different postures?”; and within Pratyahara, “what happens when I withdraw my attention from the external world and turn my inner eye towards myself?”


All of these questions and their subsequent answers have now been resolved - when practising Dhyana, there are no more questions to ask and no more answers to receive. The yogi has examined themselves both rigorously and kindly, with changes made and accepted where necessary and discipline applied where needed.


It is when there are no more “turnings of the mind” or “strident vibrations” that the yogi can exist as and within themselves and acknowledge the truth of their existence as a reflection of the divine cosmic manifestation itself.


And it’s here that we discover the true practice of meditation.


Meditation is often confused with mindfulness techniques or contemplative practices, but by their very nature these are not practices of meditation.


Within mindfulness, our awareness is turned fully onto our everyday actions and movements of the mind and therefore our perception of separation exists; there is our awareness and there is what we are aware of. When practising contemplative techniques, there exists the same separation - we who are contemplating and the thing we are contemplating.


Dhyana completely loses any sense of separation between the yogi and the practice of meditation - the yogi is meditation and meditation is the yogi; the physical and the mental have merged into one stream of pure conscious awareness of the true self.


This awareness contains no judgement within it; no sense of comparison or analysis about itself; it doesn’t reach into the past or the future, it simply rests within itself in the perfection of the eternal present moment.


Matt ~ The Bearded Naked Yogi


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