This is the intended meaning of the above statement, japa is the repetition of a mantra signifying a particular deity, the relation between them being one of signifier and signified. This is to be understood in the sense that the turning of the beads is pervaded by the power of the underlying vital breath. The priina Yoga Sakti of a spiritual adept, a worshipper of the supreme unity, produces nada the primordial sound during its upward and downward movement through the inner channel of the middle path, or spinal cord. Hence this priina Yoga Sakti is called a garland of beads, owing to its effortless rise within himself, and also holding within its bosom the power of all the senses. It is on account of all this that the universe comprised of thirty-six tattvas constituting the signified is said to exist in the priina Yoga Sakti which is identified with the supreme Goddess.
The spiritual adept accomplishes effortlessly the task of japa by the movement of the vital breath within himself without being aware of it. As to the number of times this japa is performed by the spiritual adept, the saiva Upanisad says: It is said that the repetition of the name of the Goddess during the day and during the night takes place 21,600 times, and this occurs naturally in the spiritual adept. But for an ignorant being, this is a difficult task to achieve.1 When the spiritual adept views the totality of his being with the vision of unity, he then considers his consciousness to be resting entirely in the cemetery of the universe, considers his own body to be an emblem of the skeleton, and drinks from the skull that lies in his hands, which is a fragment of limited cognition and which is full of the drink of the universe’s essence. This is called his austerity vrata, which is both easy and difficult to observe.
As will be explained later, to an enlightened spiritual adept an austerity is the following of certain rules in order to worship the divine Being within himself. Why this austerity is both difficult and easy to observe is explained as follows. It is difficult to observe because ignorance can only be destroyed by suffering and because it is attainable only through the supreme Lord’s grace after the spiritual adept has given up all other paths of spiritual discipline. It is easy to observe because it is not necessary for the spiritual adept to suffer the pain of such practices as dietary rules, the wearing of ornaments of bones, or the smearing of his body with ashes etc. It may be asked: what is the nature of this austerity? This is explained as follows: there is only diversity in all that is experienced in the world.
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