Primitive man living in close accord with nature was able to sense the presence of The Creator all around him. Though it was likely not until basic survival and reproduction were readily secured on a consistent basis that man had the energy to consider a higher consciousness.
It began with imitation. The presence of an unknown, all-pervading force resonated tranquility in the natural world. So the early sage first made himself still and silent to be mindful of it.
Contemplation within this state quite naturally brought about an awareness of unity between all the elements that made up universal macrocosm.
Forest, mountain, star, sea, sun, flower, bird, fire, water, air… were then, for the first time, considered as pieces of a whole picture.
He then acknowledged the present force as that which connected all these elements.
And with his words he made prayer in that acknowledgement.
Stillness, silence and solitude proved to be the very best conditions for the early sage to maintain this special awareness.
So he carved out boundaries of time and space within his daily life to perform these rituals of contemplation and acknowledgment.
As he developed greater awareness, the sage deduced that this profound unity between all things implied a singular, original source.
The Creator was too awesome to be rationalized on human terms. It existed on a plane beyond the limits of human reason.
This was a reasonable conclusion he figured, because any attempt at quantifying the awesomeness or defining its boundaries was to give it a set of limits, and such a premise was absurd if The Creator was to be all-encompassing of the entire universe.
So reason was abandoned.
He understood that the ability to reason is just one tool in the arsenal of man’s consciousness. It is not the absolute.
Although ritual meditation, prayer and worship were born of futility in the early sage’s understanding, these acts later proved to be a most effective way of knowing The Creator.
The more time the sage spent in an exalted state of adoration, the more he lost sense of himself as identified through ego.
His fears and desires were starved and soon faded simply by means of deprivation.
He became a perfect conduit of transmission to manifest The Creator’s Will on earth, completely in-sync with his own nature and the world around him.
He became an empty cup to be filled with divine grace and pour it forth upon the earth.
This state of higher-consciousness was a true understanding of ‘God’ as an experience rather than an explanation.
The rapture of this experience was enough for peasant monks to spend a whole lifetime pursuing, but the greater sages sought to build a system of ‘best practices’ for achieving this state of profound peace at will.
Through experiments, the sage learned tricks to get himself into states of higher consciousness… such as psychedelic drugs and fasting.
He came up with more advanced techniques; hacks for the body that would in turn program the mind to operate in these states.
He built a whole science around this body-mind hacking and called it yoga.
He pushed the threshold of these psychic states until he separated completely with the ‘I’ became disassociated from his body. He experienced a complete annihilation of the ego.
Instructions for achieving this ‘enlightened union with God’ were stated plainly as: stop the mind from thinking.
Only perfect innocence can cross the abyss to HIM; only spotless nothingness is capable of reflecting HIS image.
Controlling The Flesh
Early on, disciples found an effective hack called mortification.
A man would, for example, stand on one leg or raise one arm in the air.
Then he would rigidly hold the awkward position… a hundred days or more… until the flesh was terribly swollen and stiff.
He would hold it past the point of permanent injury and paralysis of the limb.
In this practice his mind would completely ‘shut off’… and that trigger was little more than a biological emergency sequence to end the excruciating pain.
This was a very crude method of mind-stopping, but he saw value in it because of the will power that was developed while stubbornly enduring the agony.
Will power was the crown virtue of the entire discipline of yoga. Anything that built up the power of the will was considered worthwhile.
A strong will, guided perhaps by the wisdom of a guru, was all that was required for the disciple to actualize his union through yoga.
Silencing The Flesh
Silencing the flesh was thought to be a prerequisite to silencing the mind.
Greater disciples found more convenient body-shapes that could be held comfortably for long periods without mortification.
They experimented by imitating with their bodies things seen in nature; tree, fish, bird etc.
This act was a beautiful expression of unity with the object of their imitation.
The sage willed his body to be perfectly still in the most comfortable position possible… while still remaining upright.
Perfect stillness in this practice, was about the equivalent of holding a saucer-cup filled to the brim on one’s head for an hour.
Disciplining the body to this kind of rigidity required going through periods of extreme discomfort and even dull pain.
After many months of practice in his chosen position, the body would cease transmission of discomfort signals to the mind.
His position became so natural that upon resuming it, he was immediately at perfect ease… a kind he had never known in his life.
This is the point at which the disciple transcended his flesh.
Then by consciously controlling the cycles of his breath, he mastered his body completely.
There the hard work of controlling the mind could begin.
When the disciple left his meditation chamber and went to the marketplace, chatter with worldly people shook the state of profound peace he was kindling.
They filled his head with all their noise and that ever-present disturbance became a big problem for him. They could not share in his divine awareness and only served to ravage him with bickering and ugliness.
He figured that the best way to prevent this disturbance (short of complete isolation) was to reduce his potential conflict with others.
He aimed foremost to avoid arguments and heated exchanges.
He committed to a life of chastity and poverty knowing that sex and money were the major triggers of conflict in his life.
To that he added, benignity – non-killing, non-hurting, non-stealing – because those ‘sins’ weighed heavy on his conscience.
Ownership of unnecessary possessions also anchored a peculiar weight on the mind, so those were discarded.
All this for peace of mind.
A commitment to so-called ‘moral living’ in this ancient school of yogic discipline had little to do with doing good or sharing nice feelings. It was a practical means to an end.
A harmless beggar, totally benign, with nothing to his name, is all but invisible. He is never bothered nor beholden to another. Nothing is expected of him. He is completely free.