Is the Mind the Slayer of the Real?...No it’s Not, according to Charles Johnson and his interoperation of Sankaracharya. 
Its actually the Doorway to the Soul and the Pathway to the Kingdom of God when used correctly. Something most of those who study and practice the Yoga Sutra’s know and understand

Charles Johnston;—Sankaracharya is, for me, the greatest of all Masters of the Mind; he has, indeed, conquered and circumvented the mind at every turning, making a slave, nay, even a most effective servant and ally of that power which, for so many teachers, has been ceaselessly reprobated, as the Slayer of the Real. Sankara has shown how to draw the grains of gold from the matrix of the mind, to make the mind the door-keeper of the soul.” 
Did HPB know this when she wrote VOS, yes I think so, and that’s why she wrote 'Dedicated to the few' 
HPB is also telling us this with her statement that ‘Venus is the queen among our planets, the crown jewel of our solar system’. 
Elsewhere she has told us that Venus is the intellect and related to the left eye, while Mercury is Buddhi and related energy wise to the right eye.

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Hi James:

"Charles Johnston;—Sankaracharya is, for me, the greatest of all Masters of the Mind; he has, indeed, conquered and.................."

Is this a quote from Charles Johnston or something you wrote? 


Hi Barbaram

Its off TN under 

The Vedanta Philosophy of Sankaracharya
Charles Johnston (author)


Well, we certainly couldn't study Advaita or Theosophy without a mind.  Without Mind, Manas or Intellect there would be no link between our highest spiritual principles and the personality. So it seems to be a vital and necessary component both in our constitution and in the spiritual path.  One question we might ask is, what does "The Voice of the Silence' actually mean by the term "The Mind" when it states:

"The Mind is the great Slayer of the Real, let the Disciple slay the slayer."


A good question;…It is my view the answer to the above is in the first 12 verses, but those partaking would  first have to come to a general consensus as to what exactly is the mind, the causal body, consciousness, psych, the developing human soul, and what exactly happened at ‘Individualisation’. Without this people could be putting forward ideas about different things


Here’s a brief look at what needs Slaying

For many lives man has been a pupil of the Earth School and enjoyed all it has to offer gaining experience in both pleasure and pain, developing the mind in 5th Race to close to its full extent. He is happy with normal everyday life, with its everyday joys, and sorrows. His mind is focused down and out into the (un-real) world pursuing what there is to offer. His soul is not ready for the spiritual life referred to as ‘The Real’   ‘The Prodigal Son in the far off land eating the husks of Life’.

Then comes a series of lives where he has tired of the physical joys on offer, he then says ‘I will arise and go to my Father’ and sets off on the Spiritual Path.                                           As the VOS is about the Occult path and the word Disciple usually applies to an advanced stage  where, with the help of a teacher, he discovers all the old unstable, restless, mind patterns ‘Slay the Real’ and have become obstacles to seeing life clearly.

This is what the Disciple has to ‘Slay’, all the old mind patterns, not the mind itself .  

Looking-within or Looking-without. This is the Mystery of the Dual Manas.

The mind has to be modified/retrained in a new direction with the cultivation of ‘right detachment’, mindfulness, meditation etc., until eventually he can say ‘My Father and I are One’

The Dalai Lama is a good example of a very advanced person with a great mind


When seeking to understand the meaning of a text, if the only way to make sense of it is to make the writer state the opposite to what they actually wrote then it might be worth considering whether there are other meanings to explore that we have yet to consider?

The VOS states: “The Mind is the great Slayer of the Real. Let the Disciple slay the Slayer.”

To reduce this to, ‘Let the Disciple ’Slay’ all the old mind patterns, but not the mind itself.’ seems to lose something essential that is in the original. That doesn’t mean that slaying ‘the old mind patterns’ is not an important part of what is required of the disciple, but this may not be all that is implied by the above instruction from The VOS - an instruction that is quite radical and one insisted upon at the outset of The Voice.

We know from our study of Theosophy that by use of the term “The Mind”, HPB is unlikely to mean Manas, per se. The Higher Manas is both a principle and an entity. It is the Individuality or Reincarnating Ego. As such, it is immortal and cannot be slain. So there’s good reason to believe that it is not Manas, per se, that the Disciple has to slay. Yet something has to be slain according to the Instruction. What might that be?

Later on in this same Fragment of The VOS we read:

“The Self of matter and the SELF of Spirit can never meet. One of the twain must disappear; there is no place for both.” (p12)

There may be a connection here with a passage from the Secret Doctrine:

“Those who believe in Karma have to believe in destiny, which, from birth to death, every man is weaving thread by thread around himself, as a spider does his cobweb ; and this destiny is guided either by the heavenly voice of the invisible prototype outside of us, or by our more intimate astral, or inner man, who is but too often the evil genius of the embodied entity called man. Both these lead on the outward man, but one of them must prevail..” (SD I 639, emphasis added.)

Now, this “evil genius” is also a manasic entity of a kind, the terrestrial manas embroiled in and identified with the principle of kama (material desires and passions). So perhaps there is a link here with that “Mind” which is referred to as “the great Slayer of the Real.”

HPB refers to this evil genius as the “intimate astral, or inner man” in contrast to “the heavenly voice of the invisible prototype outside of us.” Might we say this “heavenly voice” is ‘the Silent Speaker’ to which the soul in The VOS must be united - i.e. from which arises The Voice of the Silence? (See VOS, p2&3)

Perhaps the ‘astral inner man’, the ‘evil genius’ referred to in the SD is likewise synonymous with the lunar form that must be slain in the VOS?

“Before that path is entered, thou must destroy the lunar body, cleanse thy mind and make clean thy heart.” (VOS, p11)

In the passage just above we see both the instruction to ‘cleanse thy mind’ (i.e. to slay those old patterns etc, to put it that way,) and to destroy the lunar body. It appears that it is not a case of one or the other but both, along with making clean the heart. We are also informed that these are just some of the initial requirements expected of the Disciple who would tread the Path outlined therein. Perhaps this is why HPB says it is dedicated to the few.


Dedicated to the few,… the few real mystics in the Theosophical Society’.. could indicate she was talking of a very few. In her time there was just over 100 members so she possibly may have only meant a handful at that point.

VOS 2  He who would hear the voice of Nada……. has to learn the nature of Dharana.                                Dharana, is the intense and perfect concentration of the mind upon some one interior object, accompanied by complete abstraction from everything pertaining to the external Universe, or the world of the senses…VOS Glossary to add to 2

Here she has brought in very early, the first of the 3 last means of Raja Yoga that together make up SANNYAMA,  This together with what I wrote earlier about the last 4 means at end of Fragment 1, and their results,  would indicate she is very likely talking about those few who will practice Raja Yoga.                                      

Traditionally the first 4 to 5 means was taught initially, and when the Guru thought the student was ready the remaining means of Sannyama was added. This could be why HPB only mentions only the last 4 means of Yoga and not the whole 8. Also initial forms of concentration are often taught in the early stages as ‘mindfulness’, e.g. “washing the dishes while washing the dishes” meaning not dreaming of being in Hollywood making movies.                                                                                                                                                                                      When we examine her words we find the exact same thing in the Yoga Sutras

“Before that path is entered, though must destroy the lunar body, cleanse thy mind and make clean thy heart.” (VOS, p11)   

Union (or Yoga) is achieved through the subjugation of the psychic nature and the restraint of the chitta (or mind)…Yoga Sutras                                                                                                                                                                                          1 Sutras...When this has been accomplished, the Yogi knows himself as he is in reality.

2..Charles Johnson from end of book 1… The last psychic veil is drawn aside, and the spiritual man stands with unveiled vision, pure serene.                                                                                                                                                                      3..VOS 98..And now, rest 'neath the Bodhi tree, which is perfection of all knowledge, for, know, thou art the Master of SAMADHI — the state of faultless vision  

Conclusion from various sources..

We are both spirit and matter linked by the mind, the mediator between these two, and how we use it can make us either a Buddha or a beast



The Mind is the great Slayer of the Real; let the disciple slay the Slayer - VOS

The Mind has to do with that part of our constitution that distinguishes us from the lower kingdoms.  It is what makes us a moral and intelligent being.  The quote above is a matter of speech and should not be taken literally because the mind cannot be slayed any more than a spirit can be slayed.  There are many levels of subtleties to the mind and each level produces an array of mental phenomena.  The verses are telling the students to conquer or transcend the sensuous mind, i.e. sense perception.   

Through the sense organs, we learn about our environment.   We receive mental sensuous images as a result of the external vibrations affecting our nerves and different parts of our brain.  But we know these mental impressions are not accurate and often times, deceiving because they veil Reality.   The two most prominent senses that controlled us at this point of evolution is sight and sound, and the next three verses further corroborate aspects of the mind that the disciple need to “slay.”

For: -

When to himself his form appears unreal, as do on waking all the forms in sees in dreams:

When he has ceased to hear the many, he may discern the ONE – the inner sound which kills the outer.

Then only, not till then, shall he forsake the region of Asat, the false, to come unto the realm of Sat, the true.


Yes, while slaying the sense perceptions is part of it, I consider she means more than that.

I believe fragment 1 of the VOS is a framework of the Raja Yoga/occult path outlining the procedure and pitfalls as well as retraining of the mind. It describes lower psychic illusion, the duel process of the rising of the Ida and Pingala, the Dweller on the Threshold etc.

Raja Yoga consist of eight means of which the last four are stipulated in VOS and all have to do with retraining the mind namely;

Means 5 ..Pratyehara  or detachment is the turning of the mind (and  senses), inwards, and restraining it/them from going outwards.

Means 6 ..Dharana  (Dhasena not found in Sanskrit or Tibetan on line) or concentration, is the holding of the mind on some particular object. (seed thought)

Means 7 ..Dhyana or meditation is sustained concentration on the seed thought

Means 8 ..Samadhi  or contemplation results when chitta gives up all forms, and the meditator becomes aware only of the nature of the life which is expressing itself through the form. 

VOS;..And this, O Yogi of success, is what men call Dhyana (41) (41). Dhyana is the last stage before the final on this Earth unless one becomes a full MAHATMA. As said already in this state the Raj Yogi is yet spiritually conscious of Self, and the working of his higher principles. One step more, and he will be on the plane beyond the Seventh (or fourth according to some schools). These, after the practice of Pratyehara — a preliminary training, in order to control one's mind and thoughts — count Dhasena, Dhyana and Samadhi and embraces the three under the generic name of SANNYAMA.



James- I believe fragment 1 of the VOS is a framework of the Raja Yoga/occult path outlining the procedure and pitfalls as well as retraining of the mind. It describes lower psychic illusion, the duel process of the rising of the Ida and Pingala, the Dweller on the Threshold etc.

Barbara - I see the VOS much more than a framework of Raja Yoga, it is the heart doctrine of Occultism with the most poetic and noble teachings.  Without the necessary unfoldment of Being and depth of understanding, the "four means" described above become a series of artificial steps.  Some may stumble to a subtle level of mind following the instruction, like a child lighting a match by accident, but would not be able to function at that level;  thus, it means little.  In the VOS the importance of the heart on the path of Wisdom is underscored in many verses.

"But let each burning human tear drop on thy heart and there remain, nor ever brush it off, until the pain that caused it is removed." 


Barbara- nowhere did I say to only practice the "four means" described by HPB  and I am sorry if that's the impression you got.
In fact to just practice the last four means would be spiritual suicide and possible physical as well, as most familiar with Raja Yoga should know. HPB must have expected her readers to know that as well, otherwise she would have issued a warning before elaborating so much on the last 4 means like she did.
From 83 to 89, Glossary included, she mentions  Raja Yoga/Yogi and its means a combined total of 15 times, plus the different stages from the 2nd  to 7th.  
While Raja Yoga is known as the yoga of the mind it takes in the best of the other yoga's including Bhakti, often called 'Heart Yoga' by some.
Love without mind leads to sentimentalism. Mind without love leads to mental superiority.  Both are path stoppers
My broad statement of pitfalls covers the necessity of opening the heart in the doctrine you quote as well as the other pitfalls she presents through out Fragment 1

Hi James:

Sorry for the misunderstanding.  Yes, the mind and heart have to grow together.  I believe there was a post last year by Peter who said that a Jnana yogi is someone who combines both Raja and Bhakti yoga, mastering the mind and developing the heart.

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Permalink Reply by james E Orchard on November 18, 2014 at 3:47pm
Hi Barbara,
That's OK, I can't comment on Peters post without reading it to get his ideas.
I will say that it is hard to understand any yoga without the study and practice of it, or a yoga of a similar branch.
Even then different teachers have different ideas how it should be taught as HPB wrote in preface of VOS, 'every Guru has his own system'.
Raja Yoga is said to be the main Yoga of the 5th or Aryan Race.
Permalink Reply by Peter on November 20, 2014 at 3:59am

“I believe there was a post last year by Peter who said that a Jnana yogi is someone who combines both Raja and Bhakti yoga.”


I don’t recall saying that, Barbara, but you might surprise me!  It’s true that the Advaita tradition would certainly accept Raja Yoga and Bhakti yoga as preliminary practices to Jnana yoga, which alone leads to Liberation - in their view.  They wouldn’t normally say it is a combination of both.  

As you know, its often said that the Bhagavad Gita extols four main Yoga Paths: Karma (action), Bhakti (devotion), Raja (Meditation) and Jnana (Knowledge).  Among the various traditions each has a tendency to assert the yoga associated with its own path is the best or only one leading to final liberation, while acknowledging the usefulness of the others.  Other commentators see Krishna saying that each path leads to the same goal of Liberation and that it all depends on the temperament of the devotee.

Both heart and mind are necessary aspects of the path, as you and James both say.  What distinguishes the teachings in the Voice of the Silence and in the Mahayana tradition, which HPB refers to therein, is that it is the development of mind and heart in the service of others that is the essential practice. The passage you quoted from The VOS is a good example: 

Let not the fierce Sun dry one tear of pain before thyself has wiped it from the sufferer’s eye.  But let each burning human tear drop on thy heart and there remain, nor ever brush it off, until the pain that caused it is removed.

These tears, O thou of hear most merciful, these are the streams that irrigate the field of charity immortal. ’Tis on such soil that grows the midnight blossom of the Buddha..” (p13 original edition)

Later on in The VOS we have:

“To live to benefit mankind is the first step. . . To don Nirmanakaya’s humble robe is to forego eternal bliss for Self to help on man’s salvation..” (p33) 

The instruction repeated through The VOS is that the true Path from beginning to end is taken on for the benefit of other beings, not ourselves.

“Compassion is no attribute. It is the LAW of Laws – eternal Harmony, Alaya’s SELF; a shoreless universal essence…” (p70)

We don’t tend to find such explicit statements in other traditions.  For example, I think compassion and friendliness towards others is only mentioned twice in Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras.  In the first instance it is mentioned as something to benefit the practitioner, i.e. as one of the aids to attaining and maintaining a tranquil mind suitable for meditation. 

1.33 By cultivating an attitude of friendship toward those who are happy, compassion toward those in distress, joy toward those who are virtuous, and equanimity toward those who are non virtuous, lucidity arises in the mind.

In the second instance, while it suggests that compassion and friendship are attributes that can be powerfully developed by the Yogi - should s/he choose to meditate on them - this is not given as an essential aspect of the Path:

3.23:  By [samyama] on friendliness and such things, strengths are acquired.

This feature of the Path as service to others as found in The VOS and Mahayana tradition also doesn’t feature strongly in Advaita.  That doesn’t mean that followers of Patanjali's Raja Yoga and Advaita don’t work selflessly for others, they may be better at it than students of Theosophy. It’s just not an explicit goal of the Path in those systems.

Permalink Reply by james E Orchard on November 20, 2014 at 6:23pm

While it may not be outwardly apparent, Raja Yoga, and presumable other Yoga’s as well, is all about service eventually, if not at the start.

True service is a spontaneous heart-felt response with no thought of personal gain, it’s a result of Soul contact and comes automatically to all true aspirant/disciples

Disciples evolve into true servers by first doing the inner work as well illustrated below by Johnson. Eg.(One needs a clean windscreen before the road ahead is seen clearly)

Charles Johnson 4/24. The psychic nature, which has been printed with mind-images of innumerable material things, exists now for the Spiritual Man, building for him.

The 'mind,' once the tyrant, is now the slave, recognized as outward, separate, not Self, a well-trained instrument of the Spiritual Man.

For it is not ordained for the Spiritual Man that, finding his high realm, he shall enter altogether there, and pass out of the vision of mankind. It is true that he dwells in heaven, but he also dwells on earth. He has angels and archangels, the hosts of the just made perfect, for his familiar friends, but he has at the same time found a new kinship with the prone children of men, who stumble and sin in the dark. Finding sinlessness, he finds also that the world's sin and shame are his, not to share, but to atone; finding kinship with angels, he likewise finds his part in the toil of angels, the toil for the redemption of the world.

For this work, he, who now stands in the heavenly realm, needs his instrument on earth; and this instrument he finds, ready to his hand, and fitted and perfected by the very struggles he has waged against it, in the personality, the 'mind,' of the personal man. This once tyrant is now his servant and perfect ambassador, bearing witness, before men, of heavenly things and even in this present world doing the will and working the works of the Father.


Permalink Reply by Peter on November 20, 2014 at 5:14am

HPB uses the term “Raja Yoga” often in an all encompassing way to refer to Contemplative Yoga Systems in general and not to any one system or spiritual tradition in particular.  She appears very concerned, at times, to want the reader and interested public to realise there is a great difference between the psycho-physical Hatha Yoga system with its ‘lower’ siddhis  (which had become known in the West during her life) and the psycho-spiritual or Raja Yoga system and its resulting spiritual powers. 

In her Collected Writings (CW) she links what she calls “Raja Yoga and the spiritual powers which arise from it with Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras, with Sankara’s Advaita philosophy, the contemplative systems of Ammonius Saccas, Plotinus, Porphyry, Proclus (the neo-Platonistist tradition) as well as with Plato himself.  The divine theurgy of Iamblichus is also included under this category of contemplative systems or Raja Yoga.  

In the Voice of the Silence as well as in the CW she also uses the term Raja Yoga to apply to the comtemplative systems of the Buddhist Mahayana Schools, such as Aryasanga’s Yogacarya school.  She maintains the esoteric teaching of these is almost identical to the Taraka Raja Yoga spoken of by T. Subba Row, an Advaitin.

There are too many references showing the above throughout HPB works to put here, but easily verified by the interested reader who cares to look through those works.

Permalink Reply by james E Orchard on November 21, 2014 at 2:17am

While HPB may well have generalized Raja Yoga through her teachings and their closeness to other similar teachings of that area, the four means she mentioned in Fragment 1 of  VOS, namely Pratyahara, Dharna, Dhyana, Samadhi, with Pratyahara being the link between the first four outer means and the last three inner means, (Sannyama), is distinctive terminology of, and normally used when referring to Raja Yoga as far as I am aware at the moment, with the exception of Pratyahara which is also the first stage of the six-branch yoga of the Buddhist Kālacakra tantra.

Permalink Reply by Peter on November 21, 2014 at 10:21am

Hi James - Is the term Raja Yoga synonymous with Patanjali’s Yoga, for you?  I’m just checking so that I properly understand.  In other words, when you say in your earlier post that in HPB’s dedication of The VOS to the few “she is very likely talking about those few who will practice Raja Yoga”  do you mean by this that it is dedicated to the few who will practice Patanjali’s Yoga?

Permalink Reply by james E Orchard on November 22, 2014 at 4:39am
Hi Peter,  Perhaps I had better clarify my thoughts for you before we go any further as you indicate.
Firstly, by 'the few' i consider she is talking about those who follow the occult path or teachings, which as you point out there are several options including the E.S. of Theosophical Society.
And since she made it clear that the S D is not an occult book, there was a need for an English framework to follow which included some possible previously unknown (in the west) directions to help illumine the way. I consider she has outlined in Fragment 1 this path up to what Theosophist call the 3rd Initiation, or enlightenment, showing some of the procedures and pitfalls 
She also made it very illuming for the average Mystic (Non occultist) in the process thus making it a treasure for all Theosophists.
Secondly, because of her terminology, especially in Fragment 1 , she appeared to me to be honing in more specifically on Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras.
One possible reason for this may be because of the numerous translations of Raja Yoga becoming freely available in the West where Raja Yoga is particularly suited to the western mind, and could also be termed a standalone system where one only needs an experienced  teacher and a book, as against Buddhism for example, where there is normally a whole live in structure with a resident Tibetan Lama, like there has been here for the last forty years, just 30 minutes from my resident in Australia.
She starts off with these instruction are for those ignorant of the dangers of lower siddhis and spends a lot of time explaining these under different clothing, and how they stop ones progress.
This is something Westerners are particularly fascinated by but have little understanding of. This became apparent in early TS days, even in Sinnetts camp before HPB's departure, then later, where few within the TS were left untouched. Certain so-called initiations at Adyar may not have been incorrectly gauged if the VOS had been understood and followed correctly.
She has also put in a lot of other information about the path including two possible Zodiac signs together with their Hercules labour. Remember her words in SD, Every true Adept had, and still has, to pass through the Seven and the Twelve trails of Initiation, as Symbolized by the Twelve Labours of Hercules, all of which Correspond to the Twelve Signs of the Zodiac. When to the World at large, all this is explained, then all the mysteries will become plain.
She indicates in the preface as well as further on that more of certain information could not be given outwardly to a selfish world, but was available to the genuine searcher.
As you point out there is not the direct outward emphases on service in the Sutras that other paths have, thus maybe she saw the need of instructions in that area to help avoid any of the forms of congestion/over stimulation, that can effect followers in the initial period without an outlet.  Normally this is emphasised by the Guru if experienced.
In the Raja Yoga system, just as the divine warehouse opens up when one has lost the desire for money/material goods 2/37, so does ones personal path of service, or Dharma, come clear at a certain stage, without looking too hard. The Divine warehouse does not normally mean money or gold, but the necessities of life become more easily attainable.  
As I have already pointed out true service is a spontaneous heart-felt response with no thought of personal gain, it’s a result of Soul contact and comes automatically to all true aspirant/disciples. I have, and still am, witnessing these words in action by a group, and groups,  I personally know of. You can chose to believe this or not, its the final outcome that counts
'Beyond the Himalayas the method in the Esoteric Schools does not differ'.  Her exact meaning here I would not like speculate on at this point, not sure if you have any ideas here.
Permalink Reply by Peter on November 24, 2014 at 10:09am

Hi James - thanks for your reply. I can better appreciate your line of thought, now.  Much appreciated.  Apologies in advance for the length of this post.

Yes, there are several options as to just who HPB is referring to in her “Dedicated to the Few’.  What we can draw from her Preface is that The Voice of the Silence is taken from The Book of Golden Precepts which contains about ninety distinct little treatises of which she learned thirty-nine by heart.  Of these thirty-nine she has made a judicious selection ‘which will best suit the few real mystics in the Theosophical Society, and which are sure to answer their needs.’ (p. xi).  This supports your idea, James, that the beginning verses provide a framework for development that ‘the few’ can relate to.

HPB also states about The Book of Golden Precepts that “some…are pre-Buddhistic while others belong to a later date..” (p. ix)  This  appears to suggest that The Book of Golden Precepts developed over time, which in turn may be why (at least, possibly why) she says ‘it’s maxims and ideas…are often found under different forms..’,  such as the Dnyaneshwari of Jnanadeva, the Upanishads, and in Mahayana Buddhism.  

The Glossary Notes to the first few verses in Fragment 1 of The Voice of the Silence certainly give an idea as to how universal  HPB believes ‘The Precepts’ to be for she relates these to the Dhyani Yoga of the Bhagavad Gita, the Buddhist Occultist, the ancient Gnostics and the Yoga of the Upanishads - almost repeating what she had stated in the Preface about the same truth “found under different forms”.  She doesn't mention Patanjali, but that doesn't necessarily mean his Yoga System is not represented therein.

The first requirement of the disciple in The VOS comes in the first proper verse, namely, if you want to hear the Voice of the Silence and comprehend it then you need to ‘learn the nature of Dharana.’  The glossary note explains Dharana as,  “..the intense and perfect concentration of the mind upon some one interior object, accompanied by complete abstraction from everything pertaining to the external Universe, or the world of the senses.’ (Glossary note 3.)  This may well be a reference to Patanjali’s Yoga, and there’s no reason to object if that is indeed the case.  However, the Buddhist tradition also has its path of concentration and progressive meditative stages of abstraction/absorptions (the 8 Jnanas) as found in the famous Visuddhimagga of Budhagossa (his summary of the Buddhist Abhidarma).  So it may not be possible to link HPB's definition with only one specific tradition.

The occasional references to Pratyahara, Dharana, Dhyana and Samadhi throughout other Glossary notes don’t in themselves mean that Patanjali’s Sutras are the specific reference point.  These terms can be found in a number of the Upanishads, some of which are believed to predate Patanajali.  Support for the existence of these yoga practices prior to Patanjali is given in the Theosophical Glossary:

“Yoga - One of the six Darshanas or schools of India; a school of philosophy founded by Patanjali, though the real Yoga doctrine, the one that is said to have helped prepare the world for the preaching of the Buddha, is attributed with good reasons to the more ancient sage, Yajnawalkya, the writer of the Shaptapata Brahmana, of the Yajur Veda, the Brihad Aranyaka, and other famous works.”

The Maitri Upanishad (one of the 13 Principle Upanishads said to predate Patanjali), for example, refers to Six Limbs of Yoga; apparently not yet developed into the eight limbs associated with Patanjali’s Yoga:

6: 18. The precept for effecting this [unity with Brahman] is this : restraint of the breath (pranayama), withdrawal of the senses (pratyahara), meditation (dhyana), concentration (dharana), contemplation (tarka), absorption (samadhi). Such is said to be the sixfold Yoga.   (Maitri Upanishad from Sama Veda)

The Amrita-Nada Upanishad and Dhyana-Bindu Upanishad (both from Yajur Veda linked to Yajnawalkya by Mead, see above) also include the 6 limbs of Yoga similar to those described in the Maitri U. 

Interestingly, the Tejo Bindu Upanishad appears to have ten limbs in its system:

1:15-16 Yama (forbearance), Niyama (religious observance), Tyaga (renunciation), Mouna (silence) according to time and place, Asana (posture), Mulabandha, seeing all bodies as equal, the position of the eye;  Prana-samyamana (control of breath), Pratyahara (subjugation of the senses), Dharana, Atma-Dhyana and Samadhi – these are spoken of as the parts (of Yoga) in order.  (Tejo-Bindu Upanishad from Krishna Yajur Veda)

Other Upanishads have Eight Limbs of Yoga, similar to those in Patanjali’s system, though not all upanishads relate them to Raja Yoga.  For example:

24(b)-25. Now hear (the description of) Hatha-Yoga. This Yoga is said to possess (the following) eight subservients, Yama (forbearance), Niyama (religious observance), Asana (posture), Pranayama (suppression of breath), Pratyahara (subjugation of the senses), Dharana (concentration), Dhyana, the contemplation on Hari in the middle of the eyebrows and Samadhi that is the state of equality. (Yoga Tattva Upanishad; Yajur-Veda)

10 - 12a:  He should practise Mantra-Yoga. Laya-Yoga and Hatha-Yoga, through mild, middling and transcendental methods (or periods) respectively. Laya, Mantra and Hatha-Yogas have each (the same) eight subservients. They are Yama, Niyama, Asana, Pranayama, Pratyahara, Dharana, Dhyana and Samadhi.  (Varaha Upanishad.  Chapter V  from Krishna Yajur-Veda)

The Jabala Darsana Upanishad and Sandilya Upanishad both refer to eight limbs of yoga for the realisation of Atman/Brahman.  These are the same as Patanjali’s eight limbs.

The Aparokshanobhuti attributed to Adi Sankaracharya is a treatise on Raja Yoga from the perspective of Advaita Vedanta.  The meaning attributed to each of the The Eight Limbs of Yoga differs to that normally seen in Patanjali’s system in order to reflect the non-dual Brahman as the basis for All.  For example:

118.  The restraint of all modifications of the mind by regarding all mental states like the Chitta as Brahman alone, is called Pranayama.    

121. The absorption of the mind in the supreme Consciousness by realising Atman in all objects is known as Pratyahara which should be practiced by seekers of liberation.  (Translated by Swami Vimuktananda)

My present viewpoint, which may well prove to be mistaken and need updating, is that The Voice of the Silence as a treatise lends itself to ‘the few real mystics’ from any and all traditions.  And when The VOS and HPB refer occasionally to Pratyahara, Dharana, Dhyana, Samadhi or even simply to Raja Yoga, unless she makes a point in her writing of limiting these to a specific tradition, which she names, then she is referring to a underpinning system of development that includes Patanjali’s Yoga, Buddhist Mahayana, the Gnostics, the Platonists & so on.  Of course, there are plenty of references throughout The VOS and in the Glossary Notes to other traditions which demonstrate there is an 'inclusiveness' in the whole treatise.

Once again - apologies for the length of the above.

Permalink Reply by Peter on November 25, 2014 at 10:49am

Hi James - I don’t doubt that true service may arise as a spontaneous heart-felt response, nor do I doubt that true service can also be cultivated. I also have no reason to doubt what you say you witness in the groups you belong to. You seem too serious a student to say such things just for effect or for the sake of argument.  However, such experiences or the lack of them is not really what I have been referring to in my previous replies, but to the Path or System as a whole.

The Voice of the Silence asserts that there are two kinds of outcome from spiritual practice. The one is self-liberation, the other is liberation differed in order to continue working for the benefit of all sentient beings. Disciples that aspire to either  may well tread the same path right up to a very advanced stage and may have all kinds of blissful, jnanic, as well as spontaneous and heart felt experiences on the way. Fragment Two of The Voice outlines the two outcomes:

    “The PATH is one, Disciple, yet in the end, twofold. Marked are its stages by four and seven Portals. At the one end – bliss immediate, and at the other–bliss deferred. Both are of merit the reward: the choice is thine.

    The One becomes two, the Open and the Secret. The first one leading to the goal, the second, to Self Immolation.

    When to the Permanent is sacrificed the Mutable, the prize is thine: the drop returneth whence it came. The Open PATH leads to the changeless change – Nirvana, the glorious state of Absoluteness, the Bliss past human thought.

    Thus the first Path is LIBERATION.

    But Path the Second is – RENUNCIATION, and therefore call the “Path of Woe.’ That Secret Path leads the Arhan to mental woe unspeakable; woe for the living Dead, and helpless pity for the men of Karmic sorrow, the fruit of Karma Sages dare not still. . . 

    The "Open Way," no sooner hast thou reached its goal, will lead thee to reject the Bodhisattvic body and make thee, enter the thrice glorious state of Dharmakaya which is oblivion of the World and men for ever.

    “The Secret Way” leads also to Paranirvanic bliss – but at the close of Kalpas without number. Nirvanas gained and lost from boundless pity and compassion for the world of deluded mortals. . . .

    Thous hast the knowledge now concerning the two ways. Thy time will come for choice, O thou of eager Soul, when thou hast reached the end and passed the seven Portals.

(The Voice of the Silence, Fragment Two ("The Two Paths"), pp 41 - 43, original edition)

No matter how compassionate we might feel we are, it must take quite a huge choice to taste the supreme bliss and freedom of the goal and then reject it.  It may be that if we have not cultivated the motivation to work for the benefit of other over the many stages of the Path then we may simply not be able to find the strength within us to turn away from "the Bliss past human thought', much like the comet that comes too close to Sun can no longer pull itself out of the gravitational pull of that great centre of light and life.

Permalink Reply by Peter on November 21, 2014 at 11:25am

Apologies, James, I couldn’t reply under your original message so had to place it here. You write:

“While it may not be outwardly apparent, Raja Yoga, and presumable other Yoga’s as well, is all about service eventually, if not at the start.”

It may be “service eventually”, James, and let’s hope that it is so. Yet service doesn’t necessarily follow according to The Voice of the Silence. Hence the teaching in Fragment Three, The Two Paths:

‘The Shangna robe (22), 'tis true, can purchase light eternal. The Shangna robe alone gives the Nirvana of destruction; it stops rebirth, but, O Lanoo, it also kills - compassion. No longer can the perfect Buddhas, who don the Dharmakaya glory, help man's salvation. Alas! shall SELVES be sacrificed to Self; mankind, unto the weal of Units?’

In the Glossary, HPB explains:

22. ”Shangna robe" means metaphorically, the acquirement of Wisdom with which the Nirvana of destruction (of personality) is entered.

The passage you quoted from Johnston is beautiful and, perhaps, what we would expect from a Theosophist of his stature and understanding of HPB’s work. However, this is Johnston’s commentary on Patanjali’s Sutra IV:24, not the text itself. No other commentator among the major ones, including the likes of Vyasa and Vascapati, provides anything similar in meaning to Johnston, seeing only the bare meaning of the sutra as ‘the mind exists for the sake of another (i.e the Self) not for its own sake.’

As I mentioned in my earlier post, the practitioner of Patanjali’s Yoga may well be more altruistic than the aspiring Theosophist. All I’m saying is that works such as the Voice of the Silence and others found in the Mahayana tradition make explicit that the goal of the Path is to help humanity, not one’s own realisation / liberation. So many texts, including Patanjali’s, simply don’t emphasise that aspect of the Path.


James' original post:     

Permalink Reply by Casady on November 22, 2014 at 1:53pm

Here's one that has some fairly extensive commentary on Raja Yoga: