What is the relationship between pravrutti, nivrutti and yoga?

datta

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What is the relationship between pravrutti, nivrutti and yoga?

[Reply to a question by Dr. Annapurna] Swami replied: O Learned and Devoted Servants of God! Pravṛtti is worldly life, which is related to the behaviour of one soul with other souls in society. It is the social behaviour of the soul, in which the soul is expected to keep society happy, or at least, not cause unhappiness to society. Nivṛtti is purely a personal matter related to the spiritual upliftment of the soul. Pravṛtti aims at the welfare and development of society, whereas nivṛtti aims at the personal welfare and personal development of the soul. Nivṛtti is based on pravṛtti because if society is not happy, the individual cannot be happy and cannot work towards self-development. Pravṛtti is the foundation and nivṛtti is the castle built on it.

Yoga means meeting with someone or attaining something. For instance, dhana yoga means the attainment of money. Putra yoga means the attainment of children. In spirituality, yoga specifically means the attainment of God or, at least, the attainment of God’s grace. Devotees interested in attaining God Himself, in order to serve Him personally, have to recognize the contemporary Human Incarnation of God. The devotees who are only interested in attaining some grace of God, can worship the statues and images of God, which also pleases God. But directly serving God in person, pleases Him to the greatest extent because such worship is direct worship (sākṣāt upāsanam). The worship of statues and images is indirect (pratīka upāsanam) and it does not please God as much. If somebody gives you food directly, you are greatly pleased. But if someone says that he or she offered food to your photograph, will you be pleased as much?

In fact, pravṛtti and nivṛtti together constitute yoga. There are eight stages in yoga namely, yama, niyama, āsana, prāṇāyāma, pratyāhāra, dhāraṇā, dhyāna and samādhi. These eight stages are called the aṣṭāṇgas. The first stage, yama itself is pravṛtti. Nivṛtti extends from the second stage of niyama to the eighth stage of samādhi. Therefore, the first stage of yoga is pravṛtti, which is for the welfare of society. The second stage onwards, it is nivṛtti, which is the soul’s personal development that extends upto the final eighth stage. The first stage of yoga (yama), which is pravṛtti, is the foundation. The other seven stages of nivṛtti, from niyama to samādhi, which constitute the personal development of the soul, are built on this foundation.

The first stage, yama, contains five sub-steps and they are: (1) Ahṃisā, which is non-violence, (2) Satyam, which is truthfulness or honesty, (3) Asteyam, which means non-stealing or not taking others’ money or belongings without their knowledge, (4) Brahmacaryam, which means not having illegitimate sex and (5) Aparigraha, which means not forcibly taking others’ money and belongings with their knowledge, as in asking for a bribe. These five sub-steps of yama are very clearly related to the welfare of society.

The second stage, niyama, also has five sub-steps and they are: (1) Śaucam, which means maintaining external as well as internal purity, (2) Santuṣṭi, which means having self-satisfaction with whatever is given by to you by God and not having any desire to rob others, (3) Tapaḥ, which means having the climax of interest in God. It involves knowing the full details about God, having theoretical love for God and expressing practical devotion to God by sacrificing one’s efforts and wealth to God, (4) Svādhyāya, which means constantly remembering the spiritual knowledge, constantly maintaining theoretical devotion in the mind and constantly engaging in practical devotion to God and (5) Īśvara Praṇidhāna, which means total surrender and dedication to God.

The remaining six stages of yoga are based on the above five sub-steps of niyama. The third stage of yoga is āsana, which is physical and mental stability. The fourth stage is prāṇayāma, which is the purification of blood by retaining the inhaled oxygen longer (kumbhaka). The fifth stage is pratyāhāra, which is the initial effort made to withdraw from worldly bonds. This partial withdrawal from worldly bonds makes some time available to hear the knowledge of God. The sixth stage is dhārana, which is fixing one’s mind on a specific form of God or Sadguru. The seventh stage is dhyāna, which is developing concentration on the particular form of God fixed in the mind. The eighth and final stage is samādhi, which is having an unshakable determination and devotion towards the form of God fixed in the mind. Thus, we see that pravṛtti and nivṛtti together form the eight stages (aṣtāṅga) of yoga.

If you displease God in pravṛtti, by committing sins in your worldly life, how can the same God be pleased with your devotion in nivṛtti? Either you have to wash your clothes gently with soap to remove its stains or else, the washerman will wash it roughly. Either you have to remove your bad qualities by yourself and get reformed gradually, through divine knowledge and devotion (Api cet sa durācāraḥ…—Gita) or the servants of God Yama in hell will reform you harshly, after death!

- By Shri Datta Swami


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