Introduction: What Is Maha Yoga?
All human beings have three distinct elements – body, mind and spirit. All of us are aware of our bodies, and most of us are aware of our minds. However, far too many of us are unaware of the spirit that resides in each one of us. Our normal awareness often extends only to our bodies and to our minds. Only rarely do some of us get the experience of being actually aware of our own spiritual existence. The objective of Yoga is to extend our Awareness beyond our bodies and our minds to the spirit (Prana), the Universal Life Energy (Chaitanya Shakti) that lies dormant in each and every one of us. When our Awareness merges with the Chaitanya we get happiness and satisfaction in all aspects of our lives, eventually leading to eternal bliss. This union of our Awareness with the Chaitanya is the true meaning of the term Yoga, which means “union” in Sanskrit.
The dormant sliver of Chaitanya Shakti, which resides in all of us, is referred to in Yoga terminology as the Kundalini Shakti (Kundalini Energy). Since our brains are usually chockfull of the physical and mental clutter of our day-to-day lives, the Kundalini in most of us gets pushed to the opposite end of our nervous system, the base of our spine (Mooladhara Chakra). There it lies dormant in its subtle form leaving most of us completely unaware of its existence throughout our lives. It is, however, our very own portion of the Chaitanya, which, if activated/awakened/enabled, will eventually find its way to our spiritual center in the brain (Sahasrara Chakra), leading to our own Awareness merging with the Chaitanya – i.e. achieving self-realization.
Over the centuries, philosophers, seers and yogis in India have developed several Yoga approaches to achieving this union. For example, Hatha Yoga, with its emphasis on physical postures (asanas), besides making the body worry-free and supple, was primarily developed to get the mind focused on the slow and deliberate execution of those postures, thereby reducing brain clutter and enabling the yogi’s Awareness to unite with the Chaitanya. Mantra Yoga, which involves chanting a mantra, is intended to achieve the same result by having the mind focus on the chanting and the sound associated with the mantra, thus letting the chanter’s Awareness merge with the Chaitanya. In Bhakti Yoga, or the Yoga of Devotion, the devotee gets so immersed in the object of his devotion that it enables his Awareness eventually to merge completely with the Chaitanya, which the devotee sees manifest as the object of his devotion. Raja Yoga involves getting the Kundalini activated by living a virtuous life and with the diligent practice of Asanas, Pranayam (regulated breathing) and transcendental meditation. Other Yogas also involve similar themes to clear the brain of the physical and mental clutter that usually inhabits it so at to enable our Awareness to merge with the Chaitanya.
While it is possible to have one’s Kundalini be awakened, and for our Awareness to get merged eventually with the Chaitanya, solely through the rigorous practice of one or more Yogas or other spiritual/religious paths, it is a very difficult and arduous undertaking. Most of us do not have the patience and the diligence required, nor do we have the appropriate Gurus (teachers) to guide us along those paths. As a result, in this day and age, very few of us are able to achieve the happiness and the eternal bliss of having our Awareness be merged with the Chaitanya.
There is, however, another Yoga path available, the easy and simple path of Maha/Siddha Yoga. Under this approach a Siddha Guru (Spiritual Master) through his grace and through the sheer power of his will, absorbs all the negative Karma (results of past actions) of his disciple, and during initiation awakens the dormant Kundalini Shakti in his disciple. Anyone desirous of such an initiation (Deeksha) does not have to do anything other than pray and request, in all earnestness, for such a favor from a Siddha Guru, have faith in the Siddha Guru, and follow the Guru’s simple instructions at the time of initiation. Once the Kundalini is awakened during initiation, the intrinsic power of the Kundalini begins its work, which through regular meditation (sadhan) will lead the initiated (sadhak) through amazing spiritual experiences and eventually to Self-Realization, i.e. the merger of his Awareness with the Chaitanya.
The tradition of Siddha Yoga is an ancient one, having been passed down over the centuries in India by Siddha Gurus to their disciples. It is described in the ancient Indian texts - the Vedas and the Puranas, in Lord Shri Krishna’s Bhagwad Geeta, and even in more recent (13th century) works of Shri Jnaneshwar Maharaj. The sage Shri Vasishtha is known to have initiated Lord Shri Rama into this path as did Lord Shri Krishna initiate Arjuna as stated in the Mahabharata. Shri Jnaneshwar Maharaj was also thus initiated by his spiritual master, Shri Nivruttinath Maharaj. Likewise, Shri Ramakrishna Paramahansa, by a mere touch, graced Swami Vivekananda with the spiritual power that eventually led him to Self-Realization. This ancient tradition continues to this day through a few Siddha Gurus primarily situated in India, but has been made available in recent years to initiates all over the world.
As mentioned earlier, the important difference between Siddha/Maha Yoga and other Yoga paths is that while followers of other approaches have to make strenuous efforts under the careful direction of appropriate Gurus in order to achieve Self-Realization, followers of Maha Yoga, once initiated, do not need to undertake such arduous efforts. During sadhan, a Maha Yoga initiate will automatically experience the physical and mental practices of other Yoga or spiritual paths depending on the specific requirements of his body, mind and the accumulated impressions of his past deeds (Karma). If an initiate needs specific Asanas and Pranayam (regulated breathing) to purify his body, mind and spirit (Prana), these Yogic practices will happen automatically. If the initiate needs a mantra, he will receive it in a dream or through divine utterances during sadhan. The initiate will also find his spiritual progress getting accelerated and he will be able to attain deeper meditative stages than he had experienced before. Like-wise it is also observed that initiates automatically give up bad habits and addictions, and their eating and sleeping habits also change for the better. In other words, once awakened by a Siddha Guru, the awakened Kundalini Shakti becomes the initiate’s Guru, and during his sadhan and otherwise, helps direct his actions and practices to enable him to make rapid and significant progress toward Self-Realization.