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स्वाध्याय Svadhyaya

Posted by Julie Andres on Tuesday, September 13, 2011 Under: niyamas
The fourth niyama, Svadhyaya, is an aspect of yoga that has taken a hold of me in a way that feels truly holistic. I have begun to form a palpable link within between the body, mind, and spirit through daily study and development of a devotional routine - actions that lead to knowledge of the Self. And, strangely, these actions are not bound by goals or a narrow view of achievement.
Patanjali's Sutra 2.44 states: Svadhyayad ista-devata-samprayogah.
According to the interpretation of this sutra by Swami Vishnu-Devananda in his excellent volume Meditation and Mantras, this means: "Through study that leads to knowledge of the Self comes union with the desired [deity]." He further states,  "However a person conceives of God, that is how he encounters him." This sutra also alludes to the use of mantra, he says. "Constant repetition of the name of Deity will bring grace." [1]
This wisdom explained so simply is like a homecoming for me. I see the value of reverence for the divine, but the monotheistic dogma that Western religions espouse has never rung true for me. Even so, the archetype of the Christ is powerful and carries lessons and truths that I relate to - primarily the sacredness of birth and life, forgiveness, death, and resurrection. The stories surrounding the Christ are embedded in my psyche from my very early years. However, I can't find peace for myself within religion.
In my own yoga practice I have taken on repetition of the Gayatri Mantra 108 times per sitting, almost every day. (It takes me about forty minutes.)

Gayatri Mantra

Om - the realm of the divine
Bhur - of the physical plane
Bhuvah - of the astral plane
Swah - of the celestial plane
Tat - that
Savitur - the creator
Varenyam - fit to be worshipped
Bhargo - remover of sins and ignorance
Devasya - resplendent; shining
Dheemahi - we meditate
Dhiyo - buddhis; intellects; understanding
Yo - which; who
Nah - our
Prachodayat - enlighten; guide; impel

Without planning it, the theme adopted in Christian liturgy - birth, forgiveness, death, and resurrection - has developed quite strongly for me in this chanting practice. As I move from one bead of my mala to the next, I am aware that as my mind chatters I can always return to the meaning and words of the mantra, I forgive myself for wandering, I allow myself to die to the previous second and renew my efforts in the space between that time and the next second. In that sequence, the whole of creation is available to me, over and over and over in little segments that are gradually joining to become one experience. I find that time passes more quickly with each session and that I am always eager for the next opportunity to chant and meditate in this way.
Reading and re-reading Patanjali's Yoga Sutras, as well as the stunningly beautiful sacred poem The Bhagavad Gita, steadily and incrementally deliver me more fully into the realm of svadhyaya. It is helpful to consider the gunas and kleshas as a means of understanding humanity and its obstacles; it is also beneficial to contemplate the deities (such as Krishna, Kali, Durga) as avenues of forming a relationship to the divine.

[1] Swami Vishnu-Devananda, Meditation and Mantras, OM Lotus Publishing Company, New York, 2000, p. 181

In : niyamas 

Tags: yoga  self  gayatri  patanjali  yoga sutras  bhagavad gita  meditation  mantra 

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