Chapter 13 — The Two Yogas of Pranayama and Self Inquiry Lead to Meditation

Rama said, “I am truly calmed and set at ease, O brahmin, by renouncing all my desires, by my full knowledge of their impropriety, and by my being staid in the state of the liberated, even in this my present life. But tell me, sage, how can a man have his liberation by restraining his breathing for a time? How can restraining the breath restrict the desires that reside and rise from the mind? The breath belongs to the body and comes in and out of the heart and lungs.”

Vasishta said:—

O Rama, the means of crossing the ocean of this earth is known by the word yoga. Yoga means pacifying the mind in either of the two ways. One is the acquisition of religious instruction, leading to the knowledge of the soul and of the Supreme Soul. The other is restraining breath (pranayama), which you will learn from the lecture that I am about to deliver.

5 Here Rama interrupted and said, “Tell me, sage, which of the two is easier and less painful?”

Vasishta replied:—

Rama, although I have mentioned two kinds of yoga, yet in common usage the word refers to the restriction of breathing. True yoga is the concentration of the mind in God, which is the only means of our salvation in this world. This is achieved in either of two ways: regulation of breathing and perfection in learning. Both tend to the one and same effect, of fixing the attention in divine meditation.

Yoga practices appear too arduous a task to some people, while proficiency in knowledge seems to be too difficult to others. But to my understanding, the ascertainment of truth by theoretical knowledge seems far better than practice. Ignorance is ever ignorant of truth, which does not lend its light to us in either our walking or sleeping states. So the ignorant practitioner is always in ignorance both when he is meditating or otherwise. But knowledge is always knowing, both when the knower is awake or asleep. 10 Yoga practices require fixed attention, painful postures, and proper times and places. It can be impossible to practice owing to the difficulty of getting all these advantages at all times.

11 I have described both kinds of yoga propounded in the scriptures and the superiority of pure knowledge which fills the intellect with its unfading light. 12 The regulation of breath, the firmness of the body, and dwelling in sequestered cells are helpful to reach the goal. But tell me, which of these can give knowledge to understanding, which is the greatest perfection in human nature?

13 Now Rama, if you think it is possible for you to sit quietly with utter suppression of your breaths and thoughts, then you can attempt to sit in your calm posture of meditation without uttering a single word.