More doubts, more answers:
You said that Haṭhayoga, except for the sitting postures, is unnecessary in order to achieve spiritual enlightenment. Could you explain more?
Yes, I said exactly that. The word Yoga means “union”. It also has a pile of other meanings but they are not relevant in this context. In turn, as so many Yoga teachers explain, Yoga derives from the root “yuj” (to join, unite, etc.). Some say that Yoga is both “union” and “that which joins/unites”, but this is not completely exact. I incline to the meaning of “union” only. The expression “that which joins/unites” can be better described by the term “yojana” instead of “yoga”.
So, Yoga is “union”. Union with what? With the Self through His Power. Some philosophical systems explain this union in the form of a devotee united with his Lord, other systems say that the devotee is the Lord Himself, etc. In spite of all those differences, one Truth remains: Yoga is union with the Self through His Power. In order to achieve that Yoga or union with the Self, Haṭhayoga is unnecessary, except for the sitting postures. I am not saying that Haṭhayoga is absolutely useless. NO. It keeps your body flexible and healthy, for example. There is no doubt about it. But these things can be achieved by other means too. Hence, Haṭhayoga is not indispensable to have a flexible healthy body. You can practice martial arts, for example, and this will keep your body very flexible and healthy. There are many other methods to do so too.
However, when it comes to the most important thing in life, Self-realization, Haṭhayoga is of no use, except for the sitting postures such as the lotus posture, etc. These postures allow you to sit comfortably for hours during trances. Also, even in the initial and middle stages, where the aspirants are in the “group” phase, they need to sit comfortably while they chant long hymns in Sanskrit, repeat their short mántra for hours, etc. The rest of postures, locks, seals, respiratory exercises, six actions, etc. of Haṭhayoga are totally unnecessary for attaining spiritual enlightenment. In fact, some of those practices are very dangerous if performed improperly. One of the six actions I have mentioned is called “Bastí” or yogic enema. You cannot practice Bastí all day long, obviously. It is used at specific moments, e.g. when your fast lasts for more than three days and your rectum begins to develop bacteria. And the special enema you need to prepare to disinfect your rectum is not any type of enema but one indicated by a proficient teacher. Anyway, one question remains to be answered: “Why fast?” Fasting is not indispensable for achieving spiritual enlightenment. In fact, none of those austerities are indispensable as far as attaining spiritual enlightenment is concerned.
What I said is even truer in the West, where people are not fond of practicing austerities. I also imagine that they will not be glad about performing enemas. These practices might have been very useful in other cultures and times, not now. The yogic enema is not so terrifying like other practices in the traditional Haṭhayoga. I wonder how a westerner, so used to a life of comfort, will manage to perform them all. If you are still doubtful, read this portion of Haṭhayogapradīpikā. Besides, if they are performed in a not right way they can be pretty dangerous to your system. All in all, learn one of the sitting postures of Haṭhayoga and leave the rest, if your goal is achieving spiritual enlightenment. And if you want to have a healthy and flexible body, the rest of postures, locks and seals of Haṭhayoga is “one” of the possible methods to do so. I personally recommend you to push aside the six actions (enemas and such) along with some of the seals, because you have to be quite a war hero to perform them as you should. What is the point of running all those risks if they can be discarded? Even the easy Haṭhayoga postures, locks and seals MUST be learnt from an expert teacher, because you could damage your system in the process if you practice all that improperly.
Therefore, people who claim that Haṭhayoga is a MUST in order to attain Final Liberation do not know what they are talking about. Only Haṭhayoga sitting postures are of great help, the rest can be discarded. As I have first-hand experience of Haṭhayoga, I am again absolutely sure of what I am stating.
Why doesn’t the experience of Bliss appear immediately when one meditates on the Self?
The Power of the Self is essentially a dense mass of Bliss, but His Power certainly will not appear as pure Bliss in the initial or middle stages of the spiritual path. The Power of the Self is always present during meditation on the Self, because nobody can realize Him without resorting to His Power one way or another. In the initial and middle stages, the Power of the Self will appear as many things: visions, multiple thoughts, void, strange sensations in the body, surges of energy throughout the body, etc. Only in the advanced stage of the spiritual path during trances His Power will appear as pure Bliss.
The Power of the Self is neither masculine nor feminine, but in poetry It is depicted as the Supreme Woman because It is dynamic and unstable, but especially because It produces great Joy. Just as a man who wants to make love with a special woman needs to do many things, a spiritual aspirant has to do many, many things before the Supreme Woman gives him Her Nectar. He cannot enjoy Her by force. That will never happen. NO. First he must conquer Her. This will take many years because the Power of the Self is the Supreme Woman and not a mere human woman. You, as a spiritual aspirant, are Her suitor. Even when it comes to a special worldly woman you have to do many things before she lets you drink her nectar. In the same way, you will have to do so many things before the Supreme Woman shares Her Bliss with you. She gives Herself to you only at an advanced stage and not before. When you can experience the Power of the Self as massive Bliss during your trances, you can be sure that the Supreme Woman has finally accepted you. This is a sign that spiritual enlightenment is approaching quickly.
If you imagine the Self as a King, His Power is like the servants coming first and preparing everything before the King Himself arrives. Even in the initial stage, His Power comes to you as doubts, distraction, multiple thoughts, etc. during the meditations. As you advance in the spiritual path, His Power begins to reveal Its essential nature to you. When you get to the advanced stage characterized by the trances, His Power will come to you as massive Joy. This is a clear sign that the King Himself is very close. It is like travelling to the Sun from the remote Pluto. At first, the Sun is a little dot in the sky, but as you come closer to it, you start to experience its heat. When you are, say, crossing the orbit of Mercury, you experience it as a massive heat. Finally, when you fully enter the Sun, you merge into it forever.
Likewise, the perception of His Power changes across the stages. When you begin the spiritual path, you could say “Ah, the Power of the Self, I understand”, but when you are in an advanced stage you say “Oh my goodness, the Power of the Self!” Finally, after a long period of trances replete with the Nectar and Bliss of the Supreme Woman (the Power of the Self), the King (the Self) will arrive. When you can meet Him, i.e. when you can merge your limited identity into Him, you become completely Free like Him. This is the most awesome experience a human being can have. From this point on you are absolutely Free like Him and enjoy perfect Bliss. Before Final Liberation, this universe seems so immense and full of so many things, but after Final Liberation, it seems small and with few objects. The entire universe looks like a tiny thing located in some corner of the Supreme Self. This experience is so shocking and mind-blowing that it will come only when you are prepared to receive it. First, you have to convince His Power that you are worth achieving Self-realization. As His Power is the Supreme Woman (or the Supreme Man, if the spiritual aspirant is a woman, obviously) you will have to work like a mule to convince the Lady. This is not for timid/lazy people but for warriors. But once She shares Her Bliss with you, you understand that what you are getting is well worth your efforts.
At first, Bliss comes for some instants. Next, it starts to last longer and longer. How to describe this Bliss? It is impossible to put into words, but imagine you could experience millions of orgasms throughout your body in one second. Next, imagine you can feel that Joy for hours. I always use the orgasm as an example because His Power is like intense Joy hitting you very hard at every second. This Bliss is not peaceful but full of His Vigor. As His Power is the source of all joy and happiness living beings experience during their lives, this Bliss of His is nothing but a dense mass of infinite Joy. Evidently, after being so Joyful and Blissful for so long, all your previous conceptions about the Self and His Power will simply vanish. You will, filled with awe, spend many days beholding as His Power displays the most incredible Joy you have ever experienced. When His Power displays Itself that way, it is very easy to abandon all sense pleasures because you have direct access to the Greatest Pleasure. Usual joys of life look like honey-flavored candy comparing to the Ocean of Honey that His Power displays for you at that time.
In the end, the source of all that Joy, the Self, reveals Himself to you. When this happens, the intense Bliss you felt before is replaced with the experience of His Freedom. It is like the sensation you feel after waking up from a nightmare, but millions of times stronger. Another comparison could be the intense feelings of someone being released from prison. That sensation of relief is the most impressive experience a human being can have. You have such an enormous burden removed from your shoulders, so to speak. This burden is ignorance appearing in the form of a false identification of the Self (You!) with mind/body. When you experience Him as He essentially is, you understand that He is never associated with mind/body. When this happens, you finally learn the real meaning of the word “Freedom”.
So, His Power is always with all the spiritual aspirants during their meditations. In rookies and middle aspirants, His Power appears as thoughts, visions, joys, anger, etc. When His Power wants to show Its Blissful Nature to the aspirant, since he or she is rookie or an intermediate one, he or she will become unconscious. This way, a spiritual aspirant will experience void every time His Power strongly touches him. The experience of void is not Reality but the consequence of a fuse that was blown in order for the system of a rookie or intermediate aspirant not to be damaged by the high voltage of His Power. The aspirant moves to the category called “advanced” only when he or she is able to tolerate His Power such as It is, as pure Bliss, and not before. Therefore, it is NOT about the Self and the Power of the Self being absent in rookies and intermediate aspirants and being present in an advanced aspirant, but it is about the capacity and merit of the latter. Only an advanced aspirant can tolerate these two (the Self and His Power) as they both essentially are. This is so because the systems of the advanced aspirants are ready for all that high voltage in the form of Bliss and Freedom. Only such an aspirant can fully enjoy Bliss and Freedom.
The other categories of spiritual aspirants (rookie and intermediate) simply have, at best, their fuses blown in order for their systems not to be harmed durin meditation. All in all, they should be extremely patient till they become an advanced spiritual aspirant, nothing else. It is just about continuing to make efforts. The Self will reveal Himself to you when you can tolerate the experience without blowing your fuses. If you cannot tolerate it, you cannot enjoy it either. It is that simple!
See you in my next post, where I will remove more doubts for you.