CHAPTER-4: Continued from the previous issue of YOGA Magazine…
Words: Yogi Raj Muni
The snow leopard had lived with us in the cave for several years now. He had arrived as a small baby cub. Yogi Ji had returned one fine summer’s morning carrying the snow leopard in his arms. ‘‘Look Muni, look at what I found all alone in the Valley below. It is a leopard! Have you ever seen one like this before – with spots?! Frightful experience for him. He has an injured paw and if we do not nurse him well, he will surely die.” Yogi Ji gave him a nick name – Bushie. Yogi Ji was an advanced and spiritually enlightened being. He was also a master of Ayurveda. ‘Ayurveda is a branch of medicine with its origins in the Indian subcontinent. Many date it as being around 5,000 years. In fact, it is over 20,000 years old,’’ said Yogi Ji. Yogi Ji also taught me that Ayurveda is a divine science revealed to the Rishis while in deep meditation. ‘Ayur’ means life and ‘Veda’ means sacred knowledge. Ayurveda then means ‘the knowledge of life’ and it is a medicinal branch of knowledge, based on natural therapies. There is much wisdom in using the healing therapies recommended by Ayurvedic specialists. The main essence of Ayurveda is to prevent disease in the first place, rather than the other way round, i.e., treat the condition without any knowledge of one’s lifestyle for instance. Any condition can be treated because for every condition there is a cure. We nursed Bushie for what seemed like months, but Yogi Ji tells me it was several weeks. He administered plants that had healing and therapeutic properties and covered the paw with ointments. As we nursed Bushie to heal, we always kept the log fire burning. Every so often Yogi Ji also threw different kinds of herbs and seeds into the fire. I could hear the comforting crackling, splintering and popping sounds of these Ayurvedic herbs as they mixed with the fire. They released healing aromas that were also disinfecting the air. On a few occasions, Yogi Ji lit the fire during the day as well. The cave walls around us were covered in heartwarming scents of herbs and spices that arose from the fire. This also made me feel happy and refreshed. Yogi Ji also showed me a few pouches in which he kept some of the herbs and seeds and spices. ‘‘These pouches,’’ he said pointing to 4 of them ‘‘were gifted to me by my Shamanic cousin. He will be sending more when he is ready.” I asked inquisitively, ‘‘Sir what is a Shaman?’’ ‘‘He is someone just like us – on the spiritual path – seeking the ‘Truth’ “replied Yogi Ji.Slowly Bushie began to heal.
Bushie did not speak directly to me. Yogi Ji said that he understood Bushie completely, even though he uttered no human words. I asked Yogi Ji how it is possible to know what a wild snow leopard was thinking and wanting. Yogi Ji said that one can learn the skill of communication with anything that is not human – but that the communication would be in concepts. ‘‘Sir what do you mean by concepts? Is this a difficult mathematical equation or astrological conundrum,’’ I asked. ‘‘Neither,’’ said Yogi Ji. ‘‘It’s a different way of communicating. Telepathy is one such way of communicating in concepts but there are other ways which I will of course teach you. But these skills must not be misused. If your heart is open and receptive and you genuinely want to connect with an animal it can sense it. It will feel it in its heart as well or any other organ of makeup in its body. The snow leopard too is able to understand and empathise with humans but we have to work at it to build a level of trust and familial bond.” I slowly worked under Yogi Ji’s guidance to build a way to communicate with Bushie so that we could understand each other. In between Yogi Ji also taught me how to practise the ancient yoga trataka technique. Regular performance of this technique improved my eyesight a lot, along with bestowing a lot of benefits generally on my physical and mental wellbeing. It also opened my psychic gateways enabling me to tune into Bushie’s thoughts and connect with him at a heart level. ‘‘Performing trataka, Muni, will improve your concentration skills, relieve anxiety as well as promote wellbeing. Such skills are necessary to acquire on the path to self-realisation and, of course, in awakening the kundalini that resides within you. One day you will be ascribed the title Yogi Raj Muni and to be able to carry such a title you must be able to accomplish a standard of yoga that is worthy of you being called such a name.” Trataka is also a yogic purification technique (shatkarma – there are 5 others). Trataka is mentioned in the Hatha Yoga Pradapika; an ancient yoga book. It is one of the six purification techniques or ‘actions’ which practitioners of Yoga are expected to do. These include dhauti, basti, neti, trataka, nauli and Kapala bhathi. On a literal level, Trataka means ‘gazing’. It is also a meditation technique. Yogi Ji continued, ‘‘when we practise this technique, we stare at a point such as a candle flame, black dot or other points, such as the tip of the nose or the centre of the eyebrow, or anything else that is suitable. By practising Trataka regularly and correctly Muni you will also improve and awaken your psychic skills. Trataka is a way to achieve pratyahara (sensory withdrawal) and you start the great voyage of discovery of the world that lies within. As your practice increases Muni, you can then use this technique on anything that is necessary or suitable such as the moon. Eventually you will reach a state where you are able to view the thing that you practised trataka on, even with your eyes closed and in your mind’s eye.” “So how is trataka performed?’’ I asked. Yogi Ji mentioned that there are a few techniques to do this and taught me how to do it, ‘‘one should be in a calm emotional state and steadily gaze ahead, at a small mark or dot, until the eyes are filled with tears. Then you can elaborate and prolong the trataka exercise by closing the eyes and visualising the object or flame within you at certain chakra points.
You can conduct trataka on many different objects including a candle flame or even an empty wall. It can be practised on the spot between the eye brows (ajna chakra which is a major energy centre in the body) and even the back of the head at the site of the bindu chakra. By doing so you can awaken extraordinary powers. In the tantrik traditions, the trataka exercise mentioned above is incorporated into many practices.” The first way I learnt Trataka was on a Bindu (dot). To perform this technique, sit down into an easy pose, or any meditative pose that you are comfortable with such as padmasana. Keep the neck and spine centred and aligned. Close your eyes. Inhale deeply from the nose and fill the lungs with air and hold. When you are unable to hold the breath any longer, exhale. Repeat this nasal breathing process 2-3 times. When you feel ready and relaxed, open your eyes and stare ahead and choose a dot or place a yantra (a pictorial description of a mantra) and concentrate on the dot in the middle. You can use whatever you can find, but the aim is to find a point where you can gaze on and keep gazing slowly concentrating. Bindu is also the name of a chakra (energy centre) as mentioned above. Do this for a few seconds. Then close your eyes. Aim for a maximum time duration of 1 minute, to start with. As you become more proficient try doing it for 15 minutes. In that time your eyes may water, that’s fine just close and open them and continue to gaze. When you initially start practising this or indeed any form of trataka, you may not see anything different, to what you have fixated your gaze on. But as you practise this preferably daily (for at least 40 days), if you really want to see long term tangible results, you will slowly start to notice that the object of your attention may move to the right, left, inwards, outwards. It may even take on a different shape, size, format, colour and appearance. Keep practising. At some point, you may see whatever your subconscious mind is reflecting. If at any time you feel pain in the head, shoulders, neck, spine stop practising this or any other Trataka technique until your yoga teacher advises you how to proceed further. Yogi Ji was a disciplined teacher and I learnt easily from him. If I was becoming lazy or tired or distracted, he would soon prop me into the right mode of thinking.