Nidra Yoga and Education in the society : an unusual point of view
We are facing today a whole world question regarding education, and since long we have noticed that almost all projects, ideas or ideals to solve that very important part of our daily life have not succeeded as we were expecting them to.
The question of education cannot be narrowed to the simple activities of schooling children and trying to impart in their brain the wholeness of adult thoughts and ideas about what life really is. It cannot either be resumed as accumulating information and technical pragmatic skills, as human beings are not machine to grow with methodic inputs as computers are.
One of the main questions of this large problem is the ethical aspects of a human life when it has to be related to the rest of mankind, but also in personal relationships between individuals. It brings about a much deeper look at how we are living as a single person but also as a group of people working, loving, assuming, and even more in very ordinary things like how we consume, how we eat, how we think… Finally as a whole, how we live and why we accept living this irrelevant way that has become our very daily life today all over the world?
The ordinary look at education is that children have to acquire and accumulate the knowledge that adults have organized in programs, systems, and readymade thinking and behaving so to conform each and everyone to a symptomatic regulated society.
Could it be another way to educate? Have we taken a wrong direction or did we misunderstand the mean and role of education? Could we have set up a false view to what we really are as human beings to such a point that we are today building a social life that matches no more to our needs and brings so much suffering and sorrow everywhere in the world?
The Yoga-s century’s old traditions and their founders or discoverers had since long already met that question and tried to find answers. What remains from this knowledge today can mainly be studied through writings and texts, but also in the close relationship with some high educated thinkers and wise humble teachers working most of the time totally unknown from the large public.
Among the whole corpus of Sanskrit texts that has travelled through the centuries and are still very accurate, we find the Yoga-sutra and among the several traditional oral teachings that can still be found today is Nidrâ Yoga.
Nidrâ Yoga maintains since centuries that deeply within each and every human being, a very high and natural level of education resides, and that its philosophy linked with its so peculiar practices can help the individual to discover and then feel it, until then finally live up to this high degree of practical knowledge in the daily life.
Its main practices are based on four regulated and progressive types of exercises:
– Sithilikarana (very deep relaxation), a very elaborated conscious way to get rid of all types of tensions, but also of old conditioned schemes which are refraining the person from seeing directly reality as it is.
- Dharana (strong concentration without tension), a very methodic way to discover the degrees of mind focusing regarding the intensity of mental capacities, but also regarding the refine qualities of the mind itself.
- Dhyana (meditation), a paradoxical state where deep level of relaxation and high degree of concentration are operating strongly together in a non competitive state of insight, that very state then revealing a new capacity of discovering the whole inner and outer worlds.
- Svadhyaya (inner study), a way of using language which is an expression of the though to find out the relation between the though process and the sensation of being deeply alive. This is where Nidrâ Yoga has to be looked at a traditional oral path.
The textual basis of this spiritual quest are few, as it was and still remains a direct oral transmission , not referring to any second hand knowledge that can only be found in books. Nevertheless, we can find some centuries old texts belonging to both Vedic and tantric traditions. Among the Vedanta culture, one of the most famous texts is the Mândûkya Upanishad dating back B.C according to some scholars, but also the Kârikâ of Gaudapâda (600) and the Pancadasi of Swami Sri Vidyaranya (1300). Among the Shaivaïte culture are the Vijnanabhairava, the Svacchanda, the Rudriyamala, the Parâtrimsikâ and the Mâlinivijaya. Finally by the end of the 8th century the great yogi scholars as Vasugupta, Somânanda and Uptaladeva gave a renewal to the tradition followed by one of the highest thinker of the Indian history, Abhinavagupta. The question today, as it has always been in the past too, is: is it possible to actualize the old traditions in our modern world which is so different from the social and intellectual background where these traditions appeared? Nidrâ Yoga has this actuality to open up potentialities within each person, bringing to the mind that the qualities of high educative schemes are lying within us already. And that our daily life consists in being a kind of gardener who takes care of these natural seeds and then help them to grow. These potentialities are ten in number according the Yoga sutras. Taken all together in a kind of ethical or moral meaning, they are most of the time looked at qualities to acquire, called in Sanskrit Yama and Niyamas. Nidrâ yoga regards those yamas and niyamas as only inner natural qualities that have just to blossom and its basic practices consists in helping them to be awaken and become actual throughout our daily life. The Latin word educare from which the word “education” comes from means literally “to lead up by taking out”. The idea behind this definition is that we have to grow up some inner qualities to come out of our conditioned situation. According to Patanjali, these 10 points can be understood and commented as natural qualities which are rooted inside the Atman (the nature of what we really are). They are ahimsa (natural quietude) and saucha (natural purity), satya (natural exactitude) and samtosha (natural happiness), asteya (natural generosity) and tapah (natural strength), brahmacharya (natural purity) and svadhyaya
(natural inner knowledge), aparigraha (natural detachment) and ishvarapranidhana (natural surrender).
These 10 elements can be taken as pair (1st yama and 1st niyama, 2nd yama and 2nd niyama, etc…) as we have just presented them.
Inside the Vedanta tradition, the human atman is aid to be protected by 5 different layers called the maya kosha, or transitory structures. The Nidrâ tradition affirms that there is a deep link in between the 5 kosha and the 10 qualities of the atman:
Ana Maya Kosha (physical structure) is linked to ahimsa (natural quietude) and saucha (natural purity)
Prana Maya Kosha (energetical structure) is linked to satya (natural exactitude) and samtosha (natural happiness)
Mana Maya Kosha (mental structure) is linked to asteya (natural generosity) and tapah (natural strength),
Vijnana Maya Kosha (psychic structure) is linked to brahmacharya (natural purity) and svadhyaya (natural inner knowledge)
Ananda Maya Kosha (ecstatic structure) is linked to aparigraha (natural detachment) and ishvarapranidhana (natural surrender).
It would be a much too long explanation entering in all the practical details of each and every aspect of those links that would go much further than this simple article. They need a very deep and long development to be understood, and they mainly belong to the oral transmission of the Nidrâ knowledge. But to give a very simple example of them, regarding the two first yama and niyama with ana maya kosha, it shows to be quite obvious that natural quietude and natural purity are the qualities of the body structure. When we look at new born babies and older infants, it seems evident that their bodies are bathing into those realities as complete quietude and total purity. Of course these qualities are not permanent, but they can be found much more often than in any adults…
Nidrâ Yoga has developed practical teachings for going back to those previous qualities that we have lived and that are kept very deeply in our memory, covered by years and years of conditioning that have organized our cultural education. The deeper levels of these teachings are going back to the root of our life when the conditioning processes were not as strong as they are after several decades of a human life. It tries to bring about the memory of the natural qualities that are lying deeply within, not used since long, but still very alive.
A very full methodology has been developed to help the yogi to get closer to the qualities of his own being, so that the ethic is no more something to acquire with great difficulty, but a reality to rediscover inside. Doing so, it is then easily understandable that education is not only a way to acquire special behavior taught by others, but also a very natural state of the human soul to be found in oneself. This does not mean that social behavior and morality should not be taught. It means that unless we do not realize within ourselves that we have these human qualities naturally, it will always be a fight to actualize them in each and every situation of our practical life.
Many exponents of yoga have often commented that yoga is a very hard discipline asking much effort for years and years until some blessed experience could suddenly happen. This might be right regarding hard practices like Hatha Yoga, a tradition using the body as a spiritual tool or karma yoga, using action as a spiritual upliftment.
Nidrâ Yoga is not very well known as a spiritual way, but mainly as a 10 minutes relaxation practice at the end of a body work yoga class. It is in fact a very high old knowledge that has passed through centuries only by the help of oral transmission. Its basis are to be studied deeply before coming to the whole process of getting rid of all the energy kept inside the tensions accumulated since long ago. Some people call it “yoga without postures” as it is studied only within two kinds of asana:
–Sitting postures like Siddhasan, Swatikasan, Sukhasan or Padmasan all well known by Hatha yogis. - Lying postures like Sarjanasan (surrendering posture), Tarakasan (floating posture) Niradhasan
(cloud posture), Mrityorasan (deathing posture) or Shavasan (corpse posture)
Lastly there is another kind of dynamic asana for practicing Nidrâ yoga: the yogi just walks on in Calanasan (motion posture) where in a very particular way of walking, the consciousness is kept very alert with openness and affection to bring about a clear perception of wholeness.
But asana are just the outlook of a very deep knowledge not to be acquired, but to be rediscovered inside the very cells and molecules which are organizing the matter of our bodies. Yoga go on saying since millennia that in between the billions and billions of anu (atoms) organizing the matter, there is a gigantic force, prana, maintaining all the particles together wherever we look in the macrocosmic or microcosmic universe. The educative qualities related to Yama and Niyama in Patanjali yoga are also known since long as the qualities of the universal prana, the life force sculpting unity through the infinity of various shapes that can be found or imagined in the whole universe.
Education according to Nidrâ yoga is the very basis of our life as human being, but also as inhabitants of this world, solar system, galaxy, etc…
It shows us that it is not only a nice superstitious idea or ideal to organize life in society, but that it is a universal reality that stands within each sentient being to be felt, accepted and re actualized to make our individual and collective life simply totally human. Education is most probably the only way we have to rediscover our dignity to testimony the beauty and greatness of life in its full reality.
Yogi André-ji (André Riehl – France/India)