Self-Growth with Upasana Yoga & Ashtanga Yoga's 8 Steps (112)


Lesson 112 covers practice of Upasana-Yoga Level 2 (bringing Lord in form of dharma in one's life – that's why last session was about dharma) — and Upasana-Yoga Level 1 (which is best captured in Ashtanga Yoga).

Source: Bhagavad Gita, Chapter 12, Verse 7, 8, 9.


  • We spoke about dharma last week because it is the framework in which 5 sadhanas are to be practiced. Without dharma, spiritual momentum becomes meaningless, disorganized, contradictory.
  • So besides recognizing interconnectedness of all things, one needs to respect “Law of dharma”.
  • What is Law of dharma?
    • It's not imposed on us externally, but an intuitive understanding we all have in reference to:
      • (a) how I want to be treated, and
      • (b) how others want to be treated.
      • And sticking to this fact, instead of succumbing to personal likes/dislikes how things should be.
    • It’s relative.
      • This opens up dharma to interpretation. IE: I can do anything, then justify.
      • However dharma doesn’t bend to anyone’s misinterpretations. Rather it provides feedback in form of unfavourable consequences. So in your interest to use it accurately.
      • Classic example of misinterpreting dharma is in Rāmāyaṇa, when Kaikeyi tells King Daśaratha that she wants her son (Bharat) to be king, and Rāma exiled 14 years to forest.
        • In this case we either:
          • Disregard the unfair request.
          • Honour the promise.
        • But if think about it, you can find more then one way…
          • EG: Daśaratha could've asked Bharat if he wants kingdom. And could've asked the people of Ayodhya.
          • Neither of these options are adharma. They're dharma thinking outside the box.
  • Then we touched upon svadharma. Personal duty which undergoes change according to situation/time.
    • We also limit our svadharma when don’t think outside the box.
    • Parents get stuck in “parent-svadharma”. EG:
      • They go into 2 extremes:
        • Preacher: Ask how many things got right/wrong on project. Then gives sermon, how needs to win in life to be successful.
        • Let child be. Has own destiny. Don’t advise too much.
      • Examples of expanding “parent-svadharma”:
        • Ask “How feel when get infront of class to speak?”. Why scared? Helps child cope with feelings.
        • Innovative father told son at 18, “I have taught you all I could, all values. I have confidence you will make the best use of what you learned”.
          • Opposite is: Don’t get into drugs. Don't __. What child hears is “How stupid they think I am. They have no confidence in me“.
  • Summary:
    • Just as child changes, so does parent svadharma need to change. Similarly we need welcome change, because times are always changing.
    • And sometimes we say “But I’m already doing the best I can in every role”. However that usually refers to comfort zone. So we need to ask “Is my best evolving, or static?”.
  • So what is svadharma (duty)?
    • Primitive view: You don't want to do it, but force yourself to then justify. EG: Wife needs to be submissive and please.
    • Refined view: Svadharma comes from sense of responsibility and have to make things interesting.
  • Now let’s continue Upasana Yoga L2…

Bhagavad Gita, Chapter 12, Verse 7:

Saguna bhakti > Upāsana Yoga – Level 2

teṣām aham samuddhartā mṛtyu-saṃsāra-sāgarāt ।
bhavāmi na cirāt pārtha mayi āveśita-cetasām ॥ 12.7
But those who dedicate all their actions to Me, regarding Me as the Supreme goal, worshiping Me and meditating on Me with exclusive devotion, O Partha (Arjuna), I swiftly deliver them from the ocean of birth and death.

  • Who are these upasana-bhaktas? mayi āveśita-cetasām, They are whose minds are set on Me as the end itself. Because of this alone, I rescue them. Such bhakta’s are also called: jijñāsu / ananya-bhakta.
  • Rescue from what? mṛtyu-saṃsāra-sāgarāt, ocean of saṃsāra, which involves 6-fold modifications.
  • Why are they saved?
    • Because of their sincere struggle/effort to antaḥ-karaṇa-śuddhi. Choosing path of śreyaḥ (each day) over preyaḥ.
    • Bhakta’s actions conform to dharma and resists comforting them to likes-dislikes.
    • Because of this, punya-karma is generated in form of mind-purity, naturally attracted to jñāna-yoga.
  • Again what is the reason that jnana-yoga alone can fulfil moksha?
    • All 4 sadhanas require actions (mental/physical). That implies sustaining a kartā (independent doer).
      • EG: Even to say “I want to surrender to God” has 2 logical problems:
        • God is everything.
        • In order to surrender, you need to retain the kartā (doer), meaning duality is retained.
    • Therefore only solution is to come to see through knowledge that: You are already non-separate from the WHOLE. Recognition of this fact is called moksha.
    • OBJECTION: How I am already the whole? I could also be part of the whole.
      • When we say “part”, what specifically are we referring to? Which cell/thought is referred to?
        • What’s more, whatever cell/thought one mentions, it’s gone next moment, only to be replaced by a fresh cell/thought. So which one is “YOU”?
      • To say “I’m a part of the whole” is like branch saying, “I am a part of the tree”. Counter-objection is, what specific part is “tree” referring to?
        • Is it: Water, Carbon, CO2, Cellulose Fibres, Lignin, Fruits, Seeds, Leaves, Intelligence to harness sunlight to chemical energy, Sub-Atomic particles?
      • Meaning “tree” doesn’t refer to any specific part, but the entire being, not excluding the branches.
      • In same way, jiva can not be a “part” of Ishvara. Because whatever reality Ishvara enjoys, must be the same reality that jiva
    • For this reason, unity of jiva and Ishvara is logically impossible. They are already inseparable. So it’s only matter of discovering “I am not inherently bound, while body-mind belong to mithyā”. This is called moksha.
      • This also means Ishvara has no power to give moksha. Because moksha can’t be created. Everything is already liberated. Hence Ishvara can only give knowledge which removes the notion that “I am not liberated”.
        • Just like not having full knowledge of the rope, you will superimpose a snake, because it resembles a rope.
          • Meaning it’s impossible to be “given” the rope. Rather given knowledge of the rope, which removes the perception of the false snake.
        • In this way, bhakta no longer superimposes anātma (body-mind) over ātma (self-evident awareness).
        • So whatever grace God blesses you, it’s not moksha, but removal of erroneous thoughts, through knowledge/guru.
      • Furthermore, ātma also has no power to reveal itself for 3 reasons:
        1. Consciousness is akartā (not an agent of action), but illuminator of the agent of action (body-mind).
          • Just like light has no authority to make person look up and acknowledge the light.
        2. Ātmā is never not obvious as self-evident existence.
        3. Ātma will never be more OBVIOUS then it is right now.
      • This is why asking “Who am I?” is pointless. Because without knowledge of “I” (found in śāstram), mind will only give answers according to it’s pre-existing knowledge.
        • Any question requires knowledge. If knowledge is absent, how can you ever come to the answer. It’s like asking “What is Aloo Gobi? (Indian dish of potatoes and cauliflower).
  • In Verse 8, Krishna says, essence of UY – L2 is fixing mind on presence of Ishvara’s grand order.

Bhagavad Gita, Chapter 12, Verse 8:

Saguna bhakti > Upāsana Yoga – Level 2

mayi eva manaḥ ādhatsva mayi buddhim niveśaya ।
nivasiṣyasi mayi eva ataḥ ūrdhvam na saṃśayaḥ || 12.8
Fix the mind on Me alone. Fix the intellect on Me alone. There, after you will dwell in Me alone. There is no doubt.

  • What does UY L2 involve?
    • manaḥ ādhatsva, learn to place your mind’s emotional dependence, not on finite objects, but on Ishvara’s ever-available order.
      • What does it mean to change focus of emotional dependence?
        • Attempt to place emotional support largely through contributing (security, love, care).
        • Attempt to depend less emotionally for things to go your way.
          • They may/may-not. You’re not the authority of the universe.
          • Since all experiences are limited, they can only provide finite fulfillment. That’s why we ask 2nd time.
    • mayi buddhim niveśaya: learn to engage your intellectual thinking-power towards perceived Orders within the universe. EG:
      • When thinking of building blocks of life (like 5 elements, cells, planets, beings), including laws (dharma, karma) – don’t just think of them independently, but associate their actuality to Lord’s presence.
      • When perceive any object (subtle/gross), remember it’s an effect of the One cause, consisting of nimitta/upadana-karanam.
    • Engage in Prayer: Why do we require prayer? How does it help?
      • If we say “I want self-growth”, your mind still goes in opposite direction.
        • Thus we notice there is certain helplessness. So your prayer acknowledges you’re not entirely in control, but Ishvara’s order is.
      • How does it work? What you ask through prayer, it becomes another cause, which increases probability of accompanying an effect.
  • SUMMARY: What is UY L2? Bringing Ishvara into your life.
    • What happens if we don't bring Isvara into life?
      • Suppose you do good deeds, sincerely helping… but don't receive any reciprocity.
        • What most will conclude is, “What’s the point of doing/being good! When questionable shortcuts carry larger paychecks!”.
        • Meaning, there is an inbuilt program to think: For every X I give, I must receive Y. Accordingly, I want to be compensated for my actions. This program is deeply ingrained in human psyche.
      • So how to deal this program of wanting justice or compensation, yet not receiving your deserving share?
        • If we include Ishvara, then when any action is performed, there is an understanding that nothing goes wasted. It can't not produce a result sooner or later. No matter how unnoticed.
        • This is called having faith in Bhagavān. His grand order never fails. Order compensates 1:1 ratio between quality of karma and quality of karma-phalam.
      • Metaphor to grasp this inescapable law of compensation (law of karma):
        • Imagine you are one finger. If finger sees that it’s a part of a much larger scheme, it’s relationship to other fingers changes.
  • Suppose UY L2 is also difficult, then scale back to UY L1 in Verse 9…
    • Why would UY L2 be challenging for some? Because if mind hasn’t reduced the influence of raga-dvesha, then it’ll constantly be pulled to single objects. Thus it won’t spontaneously think about interconnectedness.

Bhagavad Gita, Chapter 12, Verse 9:

Saguna bhakti > Upāsana Yoga – Level 1

atha cittam samādhātum na śaknoṣi mayi sthiram ।
abhyāsa-yogena tataḥ mām iccha āptum dhanañjaya ॥ 12-9
If you are not able to fix the mind firmly on Me, then seek to attain Me by means of abyasayōga, Oh Arjuna!

  • Who is UY L1 for?
    • Bhakta who has strong association or comfort to certain symbols representing divinity.
      • EG: Some are drawn to symbols of physically departed guru’s. For instance, Ramana, Sai Baba, Adi Shankara, Chinmaya, Krishna, Rāma.
  • What is UY L1 not?
    • It’s not pūja, physical worship, prayer, or anything that involves jñāna / karma indriyāni.
      • Meaning 5 organs of perception are not engaged, and neither are 5 organs of action moving. Because that belongs to Karma Yoga.
  • What is UY L1?
    • It’s purely a mental activity. Involves deliberately bringing your mind back to the selected object of meditation.
    • Asthanga-Yoga of Patanjali most accurately captures how to properly carry out UY L1.
  • Aṣṭāṅga-Yoga has 8 steps:
    • First 2 steps are pointers to living a healthy, moral life…
    • 1) Yamaḥ: This is Sāmānya-dharma.
      • Ahimsa: Hold back from contributing to unnecessary discomfort in your external / internal environment.
      • Satyam: Being mindful what words are coming out. Being factual. Don’t exaggerate. Don’t speak for sake of fitting in, but for sake of contributing.
      • Asteyam: Attempt to earn an honest living. If not entirely possible, then negate with prāyścitta-karma.
      • Brahmacaryam: Understand there’s no difference between male/female gender, except the annamaya-kośa. Both are equal in privilege.
      • Aparigraha: Assess how much you really need to live decently per year. Prevents excessive accumulating.
    • 2) Niyamaḥ: Principles to incorporate in daily living.
      • Śaucam: Sense of cleanliness. In home, office, car, and mind.
      • Saṃtoṣaḥ: Compare your performance only to yourself. Not to others.
      • Svādhyāyaḥ: Incorporate self-growth into your day. Listening to audios, reading books.
      • Tapaḥ: Re-prioritizing your life. Delegating/removing unnecessary responsibilities. Having less going on in.
      • Ishvara praṇidhānam: For every action, there’s a corresponding (immediate/future) reaction. Meaning your experience today is carry-over from yesterday. And quality of tomorrow is coloured by thoughts of today.
    • 3) Āsana: Finding an undisturbed environment for meditation. Ensuring seat is comfortable and body is in undisturbed posture.
    • 4) Prāṇāyāma: Inhaling/exhaling in a pattern. One of fastest ways to calm restless mind.
      • Effective Yogic technique is: 4-7-8.
        • Inhale through nose, counting in head to 4.
        • Hold for 7 sec.
        • Exhale through mouth for 8 sec, making whooshing sound.
        • Do 4x.
    • 5) Pratyāhāra: Intentionally tell yourself to change focus from external perception to internal perception.
      • EG: Every dog bark will be reminder to fade out world even more.
    • 6) Dhāraṇa: Start by focusing on something which you cherish. Because mind has no issue concentrating on loved objects. EG: rose, sun, face.
      • Whenever mind changes focus, bring it back to object. Keep doing this for X min.
    • 7) Dhyānam: Meaning dhāraṇa requires less intervention to bring mind back.
    • 8) Samādhi: Meaning, dhyānam is effortless.
  • When not performing UY L1, what is bhakta’s attitude throughout the day?
    • Bhakta has spirit of Karma-Yoga. Meaning deliberately aligning your actions to moral order (dharma). While keeping in mind that dharma is Ishvara manifest in form of a law.
  • Summary:
    • Krishna calls UY L1, abhyāsa yoga. Also know as: eka-rūpa īśvara dhyānam / iṣṭa-devata bhakti.
    • What is Upāsana Yoga – Level 1?
      • Again and again bringing the mind back from everything else to one object of meditation. Improves composure and concentration power.
      • It’s developed only through repetition.
  • Next verse: Karma-Yoga Level 2.
    • What if person is excessively extroverted? Moment close eyes, inner war. Meditation will turn to Mad-itation.
    • Such person mostly finds solace while engaging with world. In this case, KY L2 is prescribed…


Keywords: abhyasa-yoga, akarta, anatma, antah karana shuddhi, asana, atma, daśaratha, dharana, dhyanam, eka-rupa, indriyani, ista-deva, istha-devata, jijnasu, karta, niyamah, pranayama, pranidhanam, prayahara, prayascitta, prayashcitta, preya, samadhi, samsara, samtosa, samtosha, sastram, saucam, shastram, shaucam, shreya, sreya, svadhyaya, tapah, tapas, yamah

Credit for help in Bhagavad Gita teaching given to Swami Dayananda (Arsha Vidya), Paramarthananda & Chinmaya Mission.

Recorded 9 Feb, 2021


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