Pūjā - Purpose of Ceremonies

Athithi Devo Bavo (guests are equivalent to god).

Living is a continuous process of cell generation and cell decay. When any one of these stop, it is not healthy anymore.

When the cell generation impedes, it is decomposition.
When the cell decay impedes, it is cancer.

When a cell decay, replenishes the cells in other beings, this is called creation.

A musician burns few cells and creates pleasant tones. When a receptive person is pleased with this music, his/her cell lifetime increases 2x to 10x. As mentioned by one of the wise sages, Tirumular, extending the lifetime of a single cell, is equivalent to saving a life. Demise of a single cell with unpleasantness is equivalent to killing a life.

There is also an uncommon phenomenon where both cell generation and decay stops. In east, it is called as Jeeva samadhi (self-preserved being). Yoganandha's body exhibited this phenomenon in Los Angeles (USA), but this is quite common in himalayas and several hills in south india.

The purpose of the Pūjā (ceremonies) is to direct the energies towards creation. Rituals are devised to accomplish this by blocking certain virtues in people, referred as shatripus (6 virtues). This is not just a philosophical innuendo. Physically, the cells in the body decay at faster pace when the breath rate increases. All of these virtues demand increased oxygen and faster blood flow, killing a lot more cells without any physical exhaustion.

Godliness is being devoid of these six menial obstacles (shatripus);
1. Kama(m)  - Desire ( often referred to lust, but also includes desire for wealth and fame)
2. Krodha(m) - Wrath (outbursts of anger, destruction)
3. Lobha(m) - Greed (resulting in hoarding, manipulating resources, over-consumption)
4. Moha(m) - Delusion (resulting in traits like attachment)
5. Mada(m) - Arrogance (resulting in traits like pride)
6. Matsarya(m) - Cunningness (resulting in traits like envy)

This is similar to seven-sins discussed in western countries, except that they branch out the Lobha (Greed) and call Gluttony as yet another sin.

One can get rid of these in themselves with self-realization and effort (sadhana). But there is no direct way to impart it on others. Pleasing the five outward senses is an attempt to trigger the godliness in them.

1.) Fragnance (Dhupam): Incense sticks are lighted to ensure the sense  of smell is pleased. When the pleasant smell from a naturally occurring substance is spread, it makes the person either meditative or compassionate, based on their nature. In general, this bereaves Kama (desire, மண்-பொன்-பெண்-புகழ் ஆசை). In yogic terms, it pleases the moladhara and swadistana chakras.

2.) Food (Naivedyam):  The sense of taste is pleased with good food. Sattvic food is served, which predominantly wanes the Lobha (Greed) nature of a person. Manipura chakra is pleased.

3.) Dress Code (Vastram): We adopt a certain dress code naturally, this is to obtain the right sense of touch. Materials that are still close to nature like cotton, wool, silk that are neither over-processed nor synthesized,  diminishes the Moha (Delusion) nature in a person. Anahata chakra is pleased here.

Often a lot of fragrant flowers are used to please the sense of sight, smell and touch.

4.) Portraits and Statues (Vigraham): The portraits and statues of gods are depicted as accomplished and super evolved beings to please our sense of sight and at the same time it destroys the Mada (Arrogance) in us. The songs, stories and enactment on the extraordinary achievements (parakramas) of divine beings are exhibited to constantly keep a check on our arrogance.  This relates to Vishudhu chakra.

5.) Music (Mantram): Incantations, certain musical instruments and vocals are to please sense of hearing and at the same time dissolve the Matsarya (Cunningness) nature in us. Matsarya is the result of the mind, mantras are life-forming sound energies, which are repeated to bore the mind to stillness. Agna Chakra is the immediate benefactor of this.

Krodha (Wrath) needs all these 5 senses to be in pleased state to stay dormant. When any one sense is disturbed, it erupts.

When all these 6 virtues are dissolved, it is called the dissolution of ego. This is not a permanent attainment, but an experience like joy, sorrow, fear and anger. Everyone can get the glimpse of it, get to experience it in momentary lapses. The wiser ones keep extending the duration of the experience every time. When someone is undergoing this experience, they are in par with what is commonly perceived as god.

Call it celebration, get-together, party, wedding, baby shower, house warming, ceremonies, ritual, Pūjā and also going to religious places of worship, all this is done to defer these shatripus in us. If the ritual successfully deter these obstacles, it is the rise of godliness, at least for that time being, and the verse Athithi Devo Bavo is indeed a prophecy fulfilled.

Education (கல்வி)

கல்வி -> அறிவு -> ஒழுக்கம் -> அன்பு -> அருள் (நிபந்தனை அற்ற அன்பு) -> துறவு (பற்று அற்ற நிலை) -> வீடு (இறையடி)
- (வள்ளுவன்)

Education -> Intelligence -> Discipline -> Love -> Compassion -> Spirituality 
கல்வி பயன் (வள்ளுவன் வாக்கு)
கல்வி அறிவாக வேண்டும்
அறிவு ஒழுக்கமாக வேண்டும்
ஒழுக்கம் அன்பாக வேண்டும்
அன்பு அருளாக வேண்டும்
அருள் துறவாக வேண்டும்
துறவு வீடாக வேண்டும்

1.) இங்கு "அருள்" என்றால் "நிபந்தனை அற்ற அன்பு" என்று பொருள்
2.) இங்கு "துறவு" என்றால் "பற்று அற்ற நிலை" என்று பொருள்
3.) இங்கு "வீடு" என்றால் "இறையடி" என்று பொருள்

Purpose of Education (Thiruvalluvar)
Education should lead to intelligence,
Intelligence to discipline,
Discipline to love,
Love to compassion,
Compassion to spirituality,
Spirituality to our ultimate destiny.

1.) "compassion" is "unconditional love towards everyone"
2.) "spirituality" means "impartial attitude towards everything and everyone"
3.) "destination" is same as where we hailed from, i.e., the origin of the soul

In the current times, We often try to derive "happiness", rather sensual gratification from any form of education.

i.e., Expectation: Education -> Ability -> Earning -> Wealth -> Happiness 

It is highly influenced by the circumstances of the individual. When my parents were trying to get me educated, they had this joy oriented attitude towards education. They were neither fortunate nor wealthy enough to chew such words of enlightened beings. According to them, they got me what they thought was right and they were satisfied. Period.

Its up to you and your circumstances to decide why are you educating your children. Whatever it is, be honest with yourself and your children. Preaching the ideals, but living for inferior expectations is hypocrisy and will only lead to more regrets.

Jyotiṣa Vijñāna - The Cosmos

அண்டத்தில் உள்ளது பிண்டத்தில் உள்ளது 
(There is a micro-cosmos in every body)

Its not 6 a.m. because the clock is showing 6 a.m., but the clock is showing 6 a.m. because it is 6 a.m. The cosmos is just like this clock. It is merely an indicator, but not the instigator of the happenings. These celestial objects neither know nor care about our existence. They keep revolving around and transiting the skies as per the law of causation. We, humans, with our innate narcissistic nature, imagine their purpose is to serve us. We merely derive our personalized dosage of attributes like morality, courage, intelligence, allure, wisdom, emotional stability, patience, etc. handed over to us in this life, from the celestial snapshot at the time of our birth, popularly knows as birth chart. These birth charts are like the railway/airline timetables, you need to know some basics before you can start inferring what it is trying to say.

There are two fundamental layers in a birth chart, namely, zodiac signs and placement of planets. These are like the X and Y axis of a birth chart. Understanding these two layers lay the foundation before someone can venture into other advanced layers like Aspects (drishti), Transits (gochara(m)), Constellations (nákṣatras) , Dashas (calendar of planetary influences), Yogas (Conjunction of planets), Argalas (interference), Karakas (reason for a cause) and so on.

About planets, there is much less left to imagination as these are physically existential and perceptible objects in the skies, so we'll start with the planets.

On a full moon day, ocean is roaring and on no moon day, it is absolutely placid. Our bodies constitute more than 72% water, the exact same kind of water found in ocean. Obviously, this water will respond to the full moon in the same way. People with inclined sensitivity can feel it. Hence, the mentally inclined people are often referred as lunatics (lunar - moon), intoxication (soma - moon) is also related to moon. Since moon is very close (1 light-second away from earth surface), the impact is conspicuously felt. Moon's influence is tightly related to our emotional self, how we feel within ourselves.

Next such strong impact is from sun. Sun is the significant source of light in our solar system. All the life forms on earth depend on sun. We cannot see air as it lets light pass through without any resistance. We see an opaque or translucent object, because it blocks light and reflects it. Hence sun drives our personalities, meaning, how we project ourselves and how other see us. Sun drives our confidence and morality. Two key things to adapt and co-exist in a society.

Whole earth wobbles every year by 11 degrees left and right due to gravitational pull of venus and jupiter, which results in summer and winter solstice. When a 1024 kilograms of earth can wobble, we are a spec with no power to resist the influence of venus and jupiter. Venus pulls us towards indulgence while jupiter pulls you towards wisdom. This wobble doesn't need much explanation, as we've all gone through the debate of good or evil within ourselves numerous times. Jyotiṣa personifies Venus as teacher (acharya) of demons (shukracharya - shukran). Jupiter is called the guru of angels (devas).

Similarly, mercury is responsible for our intelligence, street-smartness, quick wit, eloquence, sharpness. Mercury is small, quick and bright and it imparts the same qualities with its influence. In Sanskrit, bōdhi (budhi) means intelligence, mercury is called Budha(n). The famous word, 'Buddha' means an intelligent one, again derived from the same planet name.

Mars is called mangal, meaning, masculine, auspicious, aggressive, brave, red (sevvai), hot and considered to be a commander (while Sun is considered a king). It imparts the same qualities with its influence. When you see a person with abundant courage, people who are very assertive and stand-up for themselves and others often, consider their mars is pretty strongly placed in their birth chart.

Saturn, the largest and slowest and farther planet to have a significant influence on earth induces large impact, slows things down, resists change and pulls us toward conservativeness. This is also the planet responsible for our patience and discipline.

These seven planets Sun, Moon, Mars, Mercury, Jupiter, Venus, Saturn serve equally well in the evolution of an individual but the nature and dosage of their characteristics they impart on an individual depends on their current position and their position at the time of person's birth. Other objects like Neptune, Uranus, Pluto and even the moons like Titan of Saturn, called Gulikan (or) Maandi have an influence on everything on earth.

There are two other celestial objects called north lunar node (Rahu) and south lunar node (Ketu). These are not physical planets but two points in the sky, where the moon's orbit (around earth) and earth's orbit (around sun) intersect. These two are pretty much the salt and pepper of the vedic astrology. While the influence of physical planets are pretty well defined, these two objects disrupt the status quo. Rahu is the bringer of sudden surprises, crazy swings, ups and downs, like a rollercoaster ride. Ketu inflicts renunciation, leads one towards eternal search, breaking cycles of repetitive patterns of life. If not for these two, the so called evolution might be super slow that we will complete miss to notice it.

The seven planets along with these two pixels, a total of 9 grahas in the space drives the abilities and life-events of the living beings.

To understand zodiac signs, visualize a 12 spoked stationary wheel as shown in the below diagram. These 12 sectors are the zodiac signs. At the time of birth, the zodiac sign peeking at the east horizon is called the raising sign, ascendant or lagna of the birth chart. That sign becomes the starting point of the birth chart and it is referred as the first house of the birth chart. Since earth revolves around itself every 24 hrs, each rising sign stays the same for two hours. Example, at 2 a.m. the sign on east horizon was Pisces, at 4 a.m. it'll be Aquarius and at 6 a.m. it'll be Capricorn and so on.
In the above diagram, earth (center part) is revolving anti-clockwise, so it would look like Aries (1st house) is raising on the east, while Libra is setting on the west (7th house). So Aries becomes the ascendent for anyone born under this situation. As long as one understand the planets and zodiac signs, they begin to understand the birth charts. Unlike earth the planets revolve slower than 24 hrs. Hence the planets will sit clinging to a zodiac sign for a while. Moon stays in same sign for 21/4  days, Sun stays in same sign for a month, Jupiter stays in same sign for a year, saturn stays in same sign for 21/2 years.

Then to venture deeper, influence of 27 constellations, called nákṣatras, is like doing the masters in vedic astrology and is for more dedicated learners. The pyramids of egypt is aligned pointing towards the stars of Orionis (Mrigashīra) constellation, because it is believed to be the portal for higher realms. Meaning, when the soul, leaving the body is directed towards stars of Orion, it goes to the higher realms, commonly known in the east as liberation (mukthi) of the soul. Hence, the soul doesn't have to take another earthly form again. These stars, though far away from earth, due to their sheer size, they influence on the solar system is commendable. Hence these nákṣatras were given a sacred place and great importance in vedic astrology.

Millionaires don't care about astrology. Billionaires do! - JP Morgan

As soon as we start understanding these, our immediate curiosity is to jump towards prediction. Its not that easy. When you see someone visually challenged, you can assume, they cannot drive a car. Similarly, when you see someone with weak mars, you can infer they are going to be timid. a weak mercury meaning, not very street-smart. Apart from this, its not easy to infer much. Prediction is more of an art, than just science. Its the ability of the person to ingest multiple reasons from several layers of a birth chart, and put things together. It is not for everyone. I myself am curious about the science behind it, but not much interested in prediction.

This love for prediction and people running behind everyone who claims they can predict is the reason why the whole art and science of Jyotiṣa Vijñāna has been deteriorated. People pay abundant wealth chasing the desire to know what is going to happen to them, without due diligence in validating the authenticity of the person claiming to do so. By doing so, they produced more posturers and ruined it for the future generations. A word of advice, such rich science and knowledge is never for sale. Anyone who is an absolute master of such ancient sciences, will never sell it for meager worldly things. The moment someone claims such worldly things, be aware, he/she is not an absolute master but an incomplete or worse a posturer.

Use this basic knowledge of customized cosmic plan for you to work towards where your desires lead you. At the same time they reveal your unexplored potentials and also the limitations. Accept both humbly and it'll slowly lead to acceptance of diverse people of varied potential equally.

manasaiva pure devaḥ, pūrva-rūpaṁ vipaśyati,
anumīmāṁsate 'pūrvaṁ, manasā bhagavān ajaḥ - Bhṛgu-saṁhitā
(One receives an inferior or superior body at the discretion of the Paramātmā (Supreme Personality of Godhead).

vāstu śāstra - Science of Architecture

The whole universe is made of five elements and the elements have a way of settling under universal principle whether it is an atom or a galaxy. As depicted in the above diagram, water element naturally gravitates towards NE, fire towards SE, earth to SW and air to NW. Space element is a sheer absence of other four elements and is the most mysteriously obscure amongst the five elements.

When you cut a magnet, it becomes another holistic magnet. Similarly, when a piece of land is separated by natural or man-made boundaries, this piece of land acts as a separate entity with energies realigning within. The whole concepts of vāstu śāstra (Science of Architecture) is based on this fact.

Hence, in the countries with longer established civilization, like India, China and Greece each lot has a prominent brick or rock fence and within the boundaries, special care is taken to ensure the elements are settled, stable and at ease. Even the sacred places, that are build under the principles of Āgama śāstra, shares the same basic principle.

Living Being influenced by the forces of nature 

Apart from the settlement of the elements, these lots or the buildings are constantly polished with beneficial energies and also affected by the malefic energies. The magnetic energies of the north and the solar energies of the east (ultraviolet rays) exert positive, life-supportive influences, while the south (infrared rays) and the west (gamma rays) exert influences that are not life-supporting. Hence in established civilizations, buildings were designed to receive the abundant, life-enhancing energies from the north and east, while shielding their inhabitants from the gamma and infrared rays of the west and south. The positive energies from north and east should flow around the structure without obstruction and collected in the southwest area of the building, where they support the health and well-being of the inhabitants.

Four important corners and their significance:

North East (Water): This corner needs to be open, unobstructed, least heavy in the whole lot. Hence it is beneficial to have a street emerging in this corner, not having tall trees and digging the ground for well, pool, etc. The common side-effects of not adhering to these principles is that, it draws the water element from the bodies of the inhabitants. As as result, they will suffer lack of attention, unable to recall from memory faster, won't be able to accumulate knowledge easily. If you try not drinking water for a day, you'll realize all these symptoms experientially.

Since humans are made of 72% water, this corner is given most significance in vāstu śāstra. Hence, inside a lot, have more vacant space in this corner and inside a building ensure this is the mostly vacant room, like a living room.

South East (Fire): This corner demands heat. It is ideal to have a fire pit, centralized heaters, geysers, stoves, etc. Hence it is also ideal for kitchen, if it is being used often. In the whole lot, this corner needs to be relatively hotter. Or else, it'll start pulling the heat from its occupants. Once your body heat is obstructed, it immediately impacts the digestion and triggers a domino effect on the health of the inhabitants. Simple things like keeping this corner red and lighting an ever-lasting lamp will fulfill the needs of this SE corner.

South West (Earth): SW corner needs to be heaviest and well blocked in the whole lot or the building. The earth dug out of NE to make that lighter, can be dumped here to make SW heavier. The earth element in our bodies gives the stability and resistance to environmental changes. If this corner, by any means is not fulfilled with its demand for earth, it starts pulling the earth element from the occupants. This makes the occupants undergo huge swings from weight, wealth, moods to relationships.

Earth being second most largest ingredient in humans, this is an important corner next to NE. To quench its needs for earth, SW is apt for heavy and obstructing, like tall and thick foliage trees, gym, taller walls, rock dumps, etc. A hill on SW is a natural boon. When you take USA as a lot, SW beaches are the most rockiest with natural hilly landscape.

North West (Air): Air element gravitates towards this corner. Making this a perfect corner for septic and restrooms. When the air demand of NW is not met, the occupants contribute their air and it impacts their psyche. Air is the insulation between the neurons in the brain. When this insulation is impacted, possible short-circuits results in unexpected psychological outcome.

Other Four directions and their significance:

Every individual is equipped with different levels of attributes like courage, righteousness, intelligence, etc. Their astrological birth charts are the indicators of those. Their dwellings will often be in alignment with it. The influence of the dwelling units on such attributes cannot exceed the max and cannot go below the minimum allocated to the individual. vāstu śāstra thrives to provide the max possible so as the inhabitant gets the most out of their life.

North (Air and Water): Good psyche and knowledge results in good Intelligence. Hence this region is responsible for the intelligence of occupants.

East (Water and Fire): Sun raises at east. Solar energy is absolutely essential for any form of life on earth. Where it is available automatically, it is taken for granted. Apart from this, there are other influences sun exerts on humans. To name few, the level of confidence and righteousness are dictated by sun.

South (Fire and Earth): This region dictates the courage and initiative of the occupants. When you see a normally courageous person move into a new home and acts cowardice, you can confidently say that the south end of the home does not comply with vāstu śāstra.

West (Earth and Air): A stable west with earth in south and air in north denotes greater levels of patience and discipline in the occupants.

These is the foundation on which the whole vāstu śāstra is built on and by no means what i've mentioned consolidates the depth of vāstu śāstra. This is a deep science that has been fading away from practice due to several fraudulent individuals trying to profit from the misery of unsuspecting victims. Understanding the basic science behind it and ensuring these general principles are met in you dwelling place, weather it be home or work place or a temple is ample enough to get the most out of this life.

More you learn about it, more you can hone your knowledge, but beware, all these anicient śāstras are bottomless abyss. If you embark on a journey to find the bottom, you'll be absolutely lost and become an annoyance to the people around you. So always keep a checkpoint on when and where to stop the research, implement and move on.

Yoga: 10. Siddhis (Psychic Abilities)

“janma auṣadhi mantra tapaḥ samādhijāḥ siddhayaḥ" - Patanjali
Siddhis may be attained by birth, the use of herbs, incantations, austerities or samadhi

Siddhis are what is commonly considered superhuman psychic abilities. Stories and myths of such abilities are prevalent in all civilizations, irrespective of the geographical limits. "Siddha(r)" is an indian term that refers to the mystics, ancient scientists, meditators, alchemists who transcended the bounds of physical realms and are not susceptible to the laws of nature. These siddhas in their journey have crossed the stages of wisdom, enlightenment, attainment of all the 64 siddhis and reach the state of "siddhahood". Amongst all the 64 siddhis, eight of them are classified as the greatest. They are;

Attama (Ashta Maha) Siddhis - Eight greatest psychic abilities bestowed upon the very best, the crown of the crop yogis.
1.) Aṇimā: reducing one's own self to the size of Kalapa (atomic size)
2.) Mahima: expanding one's own self to an infinitely large size as universe
3.) Karima: becoming infinitely heavy
4.) Lehima: becoming almost weightless
5.) Prāpti (Vyapiyam): having unrestricted access to anywhere in the universe
6.) Prākāmya (para-kaya-pravesam): Taking over other bodies and consciousness
7.) Iṣṭva (Eesathuvam): possessing absolute lordship and providing to anyone in need
8.) Vaśtva (Vasiam): the power to subjugate all, controlling other beings

Every single super-natural phenomemon ever heard of, culminates into one of these 8 siddhis. Only those who attained these attma siddhis can be term'd as Siddhas. They are never self-proclaimed, but the already recognized siddha attest them. We can safely say, 99% of the human population have never met and will never meet (in this lifetime) any of these siddhas.

Apart from the aforementioned attama-siddhis, there are Atta-karma Siddhis, which are attained on the journey by the sadhakas (practitioners). They are;

Attakarma (Ashta Karma) Siddhis - Eight Siddhis that can inflict strong karmas upon self when exercised. So these are to be never exercised unless the necessity is dispassionately justified and only upon guru's grant to do so.
1.) thambanam - freeze the target until released
2.) vasiyam - control someone to ones own desire
3.) mohanam - inflicting infatuation on someone towards self or anyone
4.) vithvedanam - inflicting quarrel and separating two people
5.) aakrusanam - taming others. This is often used on animals, the wild ones
6.) paethanam - nullifies one's thoughts and leaves them psychologically ill
7.) uchaadanam - establishing shield around self and anyone
8.) maaranam - induce death to a targeted living being

Again, these siddhi's are only attained by adept yogis. By the time they reach this stage, their morality and intelligence is so refined that the possibility of misuse forfeits naturally. Yet, there have been cases of such misuses, when a sadhaka reaches such state through shortcuts, the important thing to know is, every such action inflicts pasya karma (strong and sticking) which not only takes away their siddhis but also puts them back in the backward journey.

Other Siddhis attained on the path... 
1. Freedom from hunger and thirst.
2. Freedom from the effects of heat and cold.
3. Freedom from Raga-Dvesha (likes and dislikes)
4. Doora Darshan, clairvoyance or Dooradrishti. (Remote viewing)
5. Doora Sravan, clairaudience or Doora Sruti and Doora Pravachana. (Remote sensing)
6. Mano-Jaya, control of mind.
7. Kama Rupa: The Yogi can take any form he likes. (Shape-shifting, Morphing)
8. Parakaya Pravesha: He can enter into another body, can animate a dead body and enter into it by transferring his soul.
9. Iccha-Mrityu: Death at his will.
10. Devanam Saha Kreeda and Darshana: Playing with the gods after seeing them.
11. Yatha Sankalpa: Can get whatever he likes.
12. Trikala-Jnana: Knowledge of past, present and future.
13. Advandva: Beyond the pairs of opposites.
14. Vak-Siddhi: Whatever the Yogi predicts will come to pass by the practice of Satya, Prophecy.
15. The Yogi can turn base metal into gold. (Alchemy)
16. Kaya-Vyuha: Taking as many bodies as the Yogi likes to exhaust all his Karmas in one life.
17. Darduri-Siddhi: The jumping power of a frog.
18. Patala-Siddhi: Yogi becomes Lord of desire, destroys sorrows and diseases.
19. They get knowledge of his past life.
20. They get knowledge of the cluster of stars and planets.
21. They get the power of perceiving the Siddhas.
22. They get mastery of the elements (Bhuta Jaya), mastery of Prana (Prana Jaya).
23. Kamachari: (S)He can move to any place he likes. (Bi-location)
24. They get omnipotence and omniscience.
25. Vayu-Siddhi: The Yogi rises in the air and leaves the ground.
26. They can point out the place where a hidden treasure lies.

These are several other categories of spiritually elated individuals. These people are often misunderstood as siddhas.

Sadhus (சாது) are individuals embarked on the spiritual journey. Basically, they acknowledge that the whole world doesn't revolve around them, but they play a minor role in the play of the cosmos.

Yogis (யோகி) are those working with a goal to merge their individual consciousness (soul/jivatma) to the univeral cosmic consciousness (paramatma). They can be doing kriya yoga (asanas, pranayamas, mudras, bandhas), karma yoga (doing their work without attachment), gnyana marga (gathering and reflecting on the knowledge of total consciousness) or the raja yoga (turning inwards, meditating, dhyana and samadhi) or bakthi (complete surrender, accepting everything that comes their way and having fixed their thoughts and feelings on their deity or guru with an unshaken firm attitude). They are all collectively known as yogis, as long as their goal is to merge (yog) their jivatma with paramatma.

Tapasvis (தவசி) are people committed to onerous kriyas, leveraging all the ausadhis (herbs and minerals), constantly purifying their elements (earth, water, fire and air) and performing several rituals. These are people on the fast track toward attainment (the yog - successfully guided the soul to join the cosmos). They need an attained guru's guidance to even practice such things.

Gnyanis (ஞானி) are people attained enlightenment through Gnyana Yoga. Meaning they have experienced samadhi following the path of knowledge. When these gnyanis prefer to take disciples and guide them towards enlightenment, they are called Rishis. Most of the religious preachers and spiritual leaders of the world, claim to be in this categories. Are they true to what they claim, is upto every individual to decide for themselves. I neither acknowledge nor deny their claims.

Munis (முனி) are attained yogis, who choose to be alone and contribute quietly to the universe. They don't take disciples.

All these above mentioned can be living in solitude or living amongst the society. These is no qualms about these people leading a married life, parenting children, their eating habits, health conditions, et al.

Thuravi (துறவி) - Those who leave the organized society and migrate to solitude, often himalayas or other such hills or any sacred place, when their living conditions are overwhelmingly hindering their spiritual journey. Buddha and Mahavira left the society and became Thuravi. They attained their enlightenment and Buddha we all know is the definition of the term Gnyani and Mahavira ended up as Muni. If they ever attained siddhahood is never known.

What differentiates these spiritual people from common man is that they are constantly,

1.) resolving the karmas (கன்மம்). Basically, settling down more karmas than they accumulate everyday.  samskaras (karmic blocks/veils) are released at faster phase.
2.) as a result of the above, their veils of illusion (மாயை) are being constantly torn down.
3.) and their ego (ஆணவம்) is getting dissolved day-by-day.

What differentiates these spiritual people from siddhas are;
1.) Siddhas don't stop at attaining enlightenment.
2.) Siddhas are not distracted with attaining siddhis (superhuman abilities).
3.) Siddhas attain kaya-karpam (காயகற்பம்) - Their body doesn't undergo the usual cell decay.
4.) Siddhas have absolute control over all the physical elements.
5.) Siddhas join the quorum of siddhas and work towards betterment of the universal consciousness.
6.) They would not intervene in the cosmic play, but take up the responsibilities of cosmic flow.

Anyone with the right destiny (prāptam) and on the right path would be surely blessed with a siddha encounter. Till then take this information with salt-n-pepper and keep this page between fiction and superstition in your library.

Diwali (தீபாவளி)

What is Diwali (தீபாவளி)?

Diwali celebration is merited towards slaying if Hiranyakashya, return of rama from 14 years of vanavash, return of pandavas from 13 years of exile, But, the most common story we've all heard on the origin of diwali is slaying of Narakasura by Lord Sri Krishna. To be on same page, here is the most common version, please do pay close attention to the details like the description of characters and the numbers. These hidden in plain-sight clues will be interpreted later which everyone can leverage in betterment of day to day living and the yogis can immensely benefit in their spiritual journey.

1.) Narakasura is a son of Bhumadevi (Mother Earth) and Varaha (boar) Avatar of vishnu. 
2.) He is an asura (demon) king and ruled the Kamarupa kingdom and its capital city was pragjyotisha, surrounded by mystical mountains, utterly inaccessible and impregnable by others.
3.) It is also gaurded by 5-headed asura named Mura, 7 sons of narakasura.
4.) He invaded Bhur Bhuva Svaha, the 3 worlds. These 3 worlds are the earth, underworld a.k.a pishacha-loka (world of spirits) and the heaven a.k.a deva-loka (world of devas, demi-gods).
5.) Attacked Indra (king of devas) and captured the 4-tusked white elephant, gifted to Indra by Bhumadevi.
6.) Imprisoned Varuna and stole the crescent shaped ear ring of Aditi, Mother of all devas.
7.) Captivated 16,000 damsels and imprisoned them at Audaka on the top of the mountain Maniparvata in his kingdom. Narakasura's 10 sons gaurded the damsels.

Indra comes to Krishna and pleads to end Narakasura's tyranny. Since, Narakasura was cursed by Bramha that he'll die in the hands of a woman, Krishna ventures to the capital city of Pragjyotisha on his eagle-man, Garuda along with one of his wives Satyabama. Krishna fights and slays Mura (5-headed demon) the 7 sons gaurding the city and leads Satyabama for the final face-off and slaying of Narakasura. Releases the 16000 damsels, returns the Aditi's earring back and restores order, in the universe.

This story has several intrinsic details about how the rituals practiced during diwali impacts each and every individual. To start with, the author of these stories is Veda Vyasa, the same person who wrote the Bagawat Gita (and Mahabharatha). He is a Siddha, a fully attained yogi and adept in the attama-siddhi's bestowed only upon the very worthy of the meditators. Such a person, is not going to weave a story merely for entertainment. With his Aṇimā siddhi, he can observe the nuances of whats happening inside his body and narrates it as a story so the concepts gets imprinted in everyone who gets to hear it and when some of those individuals reach higher levels of consciousness, the same thought to be fictional stories, serve as a map or milestone to gauge their progress. As a matter of fact, Ramayana, Mahabharatha, Bagawat Gita, Srimad Bhagavatam, Soundarya Lahari, Skanda Shasti Kavasam, Vinayagar Agaval, Patanjali Stotras, Thirumandhiram, Thirukural, Thirupugazl and several such texts penned down by the siddhas is trying to convey the exact same thing at its core, but from different angles to cater to the varied approach and understanding.

Coming back to the story in hand, The devas and Asuras in any of these mythological stories are the personifications of the good and evil characteristics in every living being.

1.) Narakasura, son of earth and a boar, is the evil traits born of our desires for earthly pleasures and innate animal instincts.
2.) He ruled the kamarupa kingdom, which denotes the self-image and personality evolved out of our desires. This place being surrounded by mystical mountains are the layers of justification we assess to preserve this self-image.
3.) The 5-headed demon, Mura is the 5-senses; Sravana (hearing), Chakshusha (seeing), Jiva (taste), Nasika (sense of smell) and sparsha (touch). These 5 sense are turned outwardly protecting and nourishing these worldly desires.
4.) Invaded the 3 worlds, i.e., the material existence, good and evil nature. We start compromising these 3 aspects defining our personality towards attainment of these kamarupa desires.
5.) Indra's 4-tusked white elephant is the muladhara chakra with 4 petals. Muladhara represents our survival and this is the earthed chakra on which all other chakras function. Indra, Ganesha, Bramha and Darini are the four deities of Muladhara. The elephant symbolism can also be seen in representation of lord Ganesha. the functioning of this chakra and related endocrine glands, mainly the adrenaline glands, are hijacked towards these desires.
6.) The silver crescent shaped earring of Mother Aditi represents the nectar of vishuddhi chakra, the purification center of the 72,000 nadi network. When this is blocked, our ability to discriminate between right and wrong is severely paralyzed.
7.) Captivated 16000 damsels, these are the 16,000 Nadis that carry the pranic current towards spiritual evolution, in simple terms, that drives us towards actual manifestation of every individual. So, out of 72,000 nadis, 16,000 are blocked and we end up functioning only with the remaining 56,000 nadis, that are responsible for our day to day activities. When scientists says we are using only 5-10% of our brain, it is closely related to these dormant vital 16,000 nadis. Imprisoned in Maniparvata kingdom gaurded by 10 gaurds denotes the Manipura chakra with 10 petals, denoting the 10 pranas (Prāṇa, Apāna, Uḍāna, Samāna, Vyāna, Naaga, Koorma, Kirukara, Devadhatha, Dhanajaya).

Krishna, the yogi, traveling on garuda, the prana, with his 2nd wife Satyabama, the Ida nadi (breath from left nostril) enters muladhara, defeats 5-headed demon Mura, i.e., with strong determination, recoils from the pull of 5-senses. This phenomenon is also knows as pratyahara in ashta-anga yoga and also hails over 7 sons, retakes the control of sapta dhātu and leads satyabama, directs the cool prana via ida nadi into muladhara chakra and defeats Narakasura, stimulates the dormant kundalini shakthi to rise upwards. This Kundalini energy is the one that activates the ever dormant (since birth) 16,000 nadis. Along with these 16,000 nadis, there are 108 primary nadis, which are life vital and are explained in  detail in varma, and acupuncture. These nadis are collective called as 16108 wives of krishna. There is one other krishna has always been fond of, but not his wife, Radha, Sushumana Nadi. Restore the functioning of vishuddi chakra, the nadi purification center, with recovering the silver crescent moon shaped ear-ring of mother of devas, Aditi.

These details might sound very normal to someone in yogic path and well versed in the related books and artifacts, but strike as absolute bizarre and meaningless to someone who is hearing these words like nadis, chakras for the first time. Irrespective of it, take it with an open-mind and by chance if meditation descends on you, this will serve as a blueprint of what is happening and where it is leading you.

There is also an astrological significance as these days being the time of full debilitation of the sun in the whole year, meaning sun is exerting its least power and no moon day, meaning moon is at its least power at the same time. Hence a small window opens for a yogi, to get off the clutches of sun and moon's pull and evolve to higher realms. It doesn't mean one has to be a avid meditator to reap the benefits. Call it being in the right place at right time, anyone can leverage this window of opportunity to nitro-boost into a better state of anything deserved, be it level of creativity, wealth, social status, long pending goals, spiritual attainment, et al.

Coming to the rituals and meanings behind the fesitval, typically, Diwali is celebrated for 5 days.

Day 1 (in 2016, it is on 28th Oct)Dhanwantari Triodashi - Reevaluating perspective on Health

“shareeram aadyam khalu dharma saadhanam” (body is the best means for practising dharma)

This day is celebrated in adoration of Dhanwantari, Lord of Medicine for the devatas and originator of Ayurveda science. This is day for re-evaluating the perspective on health accumulated by any means. In the modern times, the sources are ample and the crisis is not the lack of information, but the right knowledge is piled over with too much unnecessary diversions. With the current level of our understanding and intelligence, this is the day to contemplate and discriminate between necessary and unnecessary advices on healthy living and take a vow to make necessary adjustments going forward.

Day 2 (29th Oct 2016): Naraka Chaturdashi - Detox physically and mentally

This is the day commonly celebrated as Diwali in southern regions of india.

“tena tyaktena bhunjeetaah” (this life can be enjoyed when detachment comes) – Isha Upanishad

The body has to be prepared for the energy burst that'll happen when 16,000 dormant nadis get activated. Hence on this day, people often get a rigid massage with the rightly prepared oil (Sesame seed oil, soaked with peppercorn and beetle leaves and warmed under sunlight) for 24 to 48 minutes and shower before sunrise. This is to activate the Ida Nadi. When the body is cooled down before the sunrise, the Ida Nadi become hyperactive, which facilities the flow of prana into Mooladhara chakra. Again, avid meditators should be able to experience this effortlessly. Any of the pranayama techniques like sudharsana kriya, shambavi mudra, naadi shodhana, kabalapathi, bastrika, sukha swasam, and so on will be more beneficial on this day.

Day 3 (30th Oct 2016): Aswayuja Amavasya - Renewal of Goals (Lakshya)

This is the day commonly celebrated as Diwali in northern regions of india.

This day is also known as Lakshmi Amavasya and is considered the jamadhin (birthday) of Lakshmi, goddess of wealth. The mind (moon) searches for the purpose of life (sun) and it tries to fix the goal (libra) due to the exact conjunction of sun/moon in libra that happens once a year on this day. This is commonly recommended for starting new business ventures.

Day 4 (31th Oct 2016): Govardhanpuja Pradhamai - Reassure the sense of being protected

"na me bhaktah pranashyati” (My devotees are never destroyed) - Bagawat Gita

Krishana lifted govadhan mountain to protect the people from the deluge of rain. When almighty (god/nature/conciousness/beyond/universe/unknown…call it whatever suits you) becomes the focus, all obstructions, sufferings, troubles come to an end. Meditating on realizing the effect of the surroundings on us and reassuring the sense of being protected by the universe is the theme of the day. Its a simple logic, we are here, as the universe intends to, if it doens't need us, we'll be wiped out in a blink of an eye.

Day 5 (1st Nov 2016): BhaiyaDooj Dwitiyai - Acknowledgement of sibling bond.
This is the time to rejoice the love, friendliness and harmony of co-existence. As per puranas, Yama, the Lord of Death has assured that he would not bother those mortals who spread the message of love to their brothers and sisters. A perfect harmony leads to moksha, the ultimate liberation. This 5th day is also the commencement of Shashti Viratham, another 6 days of fasting and rituals in honor of Lord Muruga (karithikeya, Skanda) which culminates as Soorasamharam (5th Nov 2016), we'll save this story for another day.

Thus this ‘Five-day Festival’ of Diwali traces the spiritual expansion of human growth culminating in the gaining of knowledge of beyond. It offers an opportunity to dive deep into one’s heart and search for all types of demonic qualities residing inside. Thus, the need is felt to clear the darkness from the heart. To dispel away the internal darkness we have to light the lamp of knowledge. When a lamp is lit on Diwali, just pray to your chosen ideal that the darkness of ignorance be removed from your heart.

With this understanding, reciting this Shanti Mantra (incantation of peace) at the start and end of the day, at the least on these 5 days, will bring a great sense of peace in everyone.

From Brihadaranyaka Upanishad (1.3.28);
asato mā sadgamaya
tamasomā jyotir gamaya
mrityormāamritam gamaya
Oṁ śhānti śhānti śhāntiḥ

From ignorance, lead me to truth;
From darkness, lead me to light;
From death, lead me to immortality
Om peace, peace, peace

Yoga: 9. Kundalini (Chakras or Endocrine Glands?)

“tvastu sāṁye citta bhedāt tayor vibhakttaḥ panthāḥ"
 - Patanjali
The world of matter is entirely neutral and homogeneous. The differences like good/evil, beauty/ugliness are sheer perceptions oriented towards measly goals.

Kundalini refers to coiled serpent at the base of the spine. As Sigmond Freud said, sexual energy is the source of all energies in mankind, which is partially agreeable. The serpent of kundalini represents this coiled up energy, which is source of all the energies of mankind. 

When this energy is dormant at the perineum, the base of spine (mooladhara), survival becomes the primary concern of the individual. When it starts rising up to the sacral region (svadishthana), the person becomes a pleasure seeker. When it hits the navel region (manipura), he/she starts expressing, doing things either to accumulate wealth or seeking social uplift. When it raises to the heart region (anahata), he/she grows compassion. Throat region (vishuddhi) activates clarity and the flow of creativity. When it reaches the region between the eyebrows (ajna), the region of pituitary gland, it unravels the higher levels of consciousness and intuitiveness. Finally, the much harder to reach point, the crown of the head (sahasrara), one attains enlightenment, siddhahood, in common terms, the ultimate possibility of a mankind.
Kundalini Chakra Endocrine Gland Life Aspect
Muladhara Adrenal Glands Surivial Instinct
Svadishthana Testis/Ovaries Reproductivity and desires
Manipura Pancreas Digesion, Energy and Drive
Anahata Thymus Gland Temperature & Compassion
Vishuddhi Thyroid Gland Growth and Creativity
Ajna Pituitary Gland Master Switch for all glands
Sahasrara (Thuriyam) Pineal Gland Beyond our comprehension
Kundalini can be awakened;
by Pranayama, Asanas and Mudras - Hatha Yogis;
by concentration and training of the mind - Raja (Kriya) Yogis;
by devotion and perfect self surrender - Bhaktas;
by analytical contemplation and sheer will - Jnani (ஞானி) Yogis;
by Mantras - Tantrikas;
by the grace of the Guru (Guru Kripa) through touch, sight or mere sankalpa of a right Guru.

Rousing of kundalini and its union with siva at the sahasrara chakra is the state of samadhi and it leads towards one's mukti (liberation). State of samadhi is made possible only by awakening the kundalini.

As soon as it is awakened, it pierces the muladhara chakra (Bheda). It should be taken to sahasrara through various chakras. When kundalini is at one chakra, intense heat is felt there and when it leaves that centre for another chakra, the former chakra becomes very cold and appears lifeless. After kundalini reaches the ajna(ஆக்ஞை) charka region, prana passes upwards through brahma nadi. Hatha yogis take it up to sahasrara chakra through some special exercises such as mahabheda and sakti chalana. At this point, it is merely the mind power, determination and all the siddhis attained so far is needed to take it to sahasrara chakra.

When there is throbbing in muladhara, when hairs stand on their roots, when uddiyana, jalandhara and mulabandha come involuntarily, these are the indications that kundalini has awakened.

Need and the benefits of kundalini awakening for the yogi;
- You get vastly increased energy levels for daily living and to progress in the sadhana
- Your entire energy system grows and expands. You become able to process more psychic energy and abilities awaken.
- Our samskaras (karmic blocks/veils) get released fast. These issues are what’s blocking your psychic development, life and death cycle.

Awakening kundalini releases abundant energy. Body and mind needs to be prepared to handle such energies. Hence the 8-fold path of hatha-yoga is emphasized. The first four steps of yama, niyama, asana, pranayama is foundation to handle these energy bursts during the later stages of pratyahara, dharana, dyana, samadhi.

Yoga: 8. Samadhi (Consciousness)

“tad eva artha matra nirbhasam svarupa shunyam iva samadhih" - Patanjali
When only the essence of that object shines forth in the mind, devoid of its own form, that state of deep absorption is called samadhi

Samadhi can be explained in many aspects. But do understand it is all the same phenomenon explained from different perspectives.

Samadhi is the experience that is beyond the influence of nature. State of consciousness with no vritti (fluctuation). In simpler words, the individual is sitting with no vicissitudes of thoughts, like a lake in absolute stillness. With dhyana, there is still an observer, observing, the observed. When the observer, the process of observing, and the object being observed all three collapse and the only thing remaining is the object, it is the experience of samadhi. When this deep absorption happens, dhyana has evolved into samadhi.

There are four kinds of vasanas (desires) that drive mankind. They are;
1.) Dharma - desire to fulfill duties, social/ethical/moral uplift.
2.) Artha - desire to accumulate resources, knowledge, wealth.
3.) Kama - desire to gratify sensual experiences.
4.) Moksha - desire for liberation and enlightenment.

These vasanas (desires) lead to karma (action). When such actions are not totally experienced, it leaves a residue called samskara, which again leads to newer karmas (actions) abiding the laws of cause and effect. Hence every reaction is the result of previous samskara. These samskaras when not expressed or experienced again, it gets buried deep under newer samskaras and these suppressed samskaras are expressed in our dreams, behavior pattern and diseases.

Force of vasana (desire) to experience these samskaras again and again is channeled through ida nadi (left nostril) driving the chitta sakthi (mental energy) and force that leads to karma (action) is channeled through pingala nadi (right nostril) driving the prana sakthi (life energy). When these both are channeled through sushumna, the vasana (desire) -> samskara (residue) -> karma (action) chain is broken.

Once broken, no more new vasanas, samskaras and karmas are accumulated. This triggers the process of depletion and draining all the existing samskaras. When all the samskaras are totally evacuated, the individual is an enlightened being. When someone can reach this point, they have absolutely mastered the art of total experience that leaves no residue. This means, any karma (action) is absolutely a total response, leaving no residue (samskara). This is the ultimate goal of anyone embarked in pursuit of moksha (liberation).

When the energies are channeled through sushumna, he/she is experiencing the samadhi. In initial stages of deep absorption, when one is unconscious of everything, there still remains fluctuations. It is called sankalpa (thought) and vikalpa (counter-thought). These vikalpas could be often misunderstood as samadhi, but it is not. Samadhi evolves in multiple stages as listed below;
1.) SaVitarka (Identified with gross physical forms like body, face, wealth, etc)
2.) NirVitarka (Unidentified from physical forms)
3.) SaVichara (Identified with subtle forms like thoughts, knowledge, opinions, etc)
4.) NirVichara (Unidentified from such subtle forms)
5.) Ananda (Identified with the experience of bliss)
6.) Asmita (Identified with psychological imprints, samskaras)
7.) SaVikalpa (This is very very subtle, identified with the ability to stop any thought to occur)
8.) NirVikalpa (Unidentified with anything gross or subtle)

This NirVikalpa Samadhi is the ultimate samadhi. In the current times, ego is one of the most overloaded words which in general means identity of a person. This 8 stages of samadhi can also be called as gradual and total dissolving of this ego. As one can see, it is not as easy as it sounds when people say "drop your ego". Without a complete understanding, maturity and a guidance of a right guru, it is very easy to be mislead at every stage to a sense of gratification and attainment already. It becomes increasingly difficult at every successive stage.

As explained before in Yoga: 2. Where to start?Upayas (Ways) to attain grace of samadhi;
1.) anavopaya (kriyopaya) - Kriya Yoga
2.) shaktopaya (jnanopaya) - Jnana Yoga
3.) shambhavopaya (bakthopaya) - Bakthi Yoga
4.) anupaya (anandopaya) - Karma Yoga

Yoga: 7. Dhyana (Absorption in Meditation)

“tatra pratyaya ekatanata dhyanam" - Patanjali
“Uninterrupted stream of that one point of focus is called absorption in meditation (dhyana)”

Dhyana is often mistranslated to meditation. There is no apt single word in english to capture the whole essence of dhyana. Hence the Japanese did not even attempt to translate but just called it "zen", a malformed pronunciation of this word "dhyan(a)".

Unlike the other practices explained in the past 6 chapters, this is something that cannot be practiced explicitly, but happens as a flowering of those practices. Regardless, a sadhaka (practitioner) on the path can try certain tools to facilitate this to happen. The foundation for any such practice is a right sitting posture. Padmasana (lotus pose), Vajrasana (diamond pose), Siddhasana (perfect pose) are best suited. For details on these poses, please refer: Asanas

Vippasana is a widely practiced technique to attain dhyana and eventually, the samadhi (devoid of any thought, identity or form). Anyone in the world can sign-up in dhamma.org and show-up for 10 days of practice, where food and accommodation is provided free of cost. Really! There is no catch of any kind. Lookup and try it if you can afford 10 days. Uppasana means idol worship with incantations, austerities and various other religious practices, which was widely practiced during the days of Siddhartha, a.k.a. Gauthama buddha. It was overdone to a point where the bright mind as buddha's can't take it anymore and hence he invented this technique called vippasana, which is nothing but an antonym of uppasana. In vippasana, there is no idol, no chantings, no mantras, but a very simple scientific technique that needs persistence and patience. Buddha identified the weakest link in the chain of human cycles and attacks it there to help him/her to find a way out.

By no means conclude that uppasana is bad, but overdoing anything will mask its real benefits and at times turn it against its own purpose. When done rightly, uppasana is an ultimate tool. Since it is a slippery slope, it is very easy go haywire in it. Uppasana in the past had lead to colonization, sectarianism, which eventually lead to conflicts, debates and some violent outbursts in the form of genocides. Hence simpler foolproof techniques like vippasana that can't cause much harm to the civilization is emphasized here.

Zazen is another famous technique, prominent amongst zen practitioners. This technique's essence is "the middle way". Choosing a seated pose (often vajrasana), the practitioner sways side to side to find the exact middle resting point and same by swaying forward and backward and do the same to settle the neck at its center. The eyes are neither fully closed nor fully open. Hands gesturing the dhyana mudra as shown below. Mind is brought to the center (without exerting effort) every-time it starts wandering. This is a beautiful technique and the benefits are immense, which will be conspicuous in day to day life activities of the practitioner.
Dhyana Mudra

When meditation happens to the practitioner, he/she experience a crystal clear mind, which awaits for commands to pick up a thought and churn it. At this point, mind is no more a veil, but a fine tool to explore the whole range of objects that make up the universe. It can dig deep into microscopic levels to analyze an atom or expand to experience and grasp the principles of galaxies.

All these does sound quite fictional or even philosophical, but these words don't do justice or even touch the surface of what the actual experience brings to a person. Refer to any artifact that was ever published without any commercial interest but for the benefit of mankind, it'll tell you the same thing in different ways.

Next: Yoga: 8. Samadhi (Consciousness)

Yoga: 6. Dharana (Concentration)

deshah bandhah chittasya dharana - Patanjali
(Concentration (dharana) is the process of holding or fixing the attention of mind onto one object)
Attention leads to concentration (dharana)
Concentration leads to meditation (dhyana)
Meditation leads to absorption (samadhi)

This chapter deals with practices that hone such attention and hence the ability to concentrate. This leads to stability and clarity of mind, which is necessary for much subtler experiences of meditation and absorption.

Before we dwell into the practices, Lets dissect the need for it. During all these yogic practice seeking higher levels of experiencing the life and its manifestations, from time to time, there arise obstacles. Patanjali enlists 9 such obstacles that are to expected.

vyadhi styana samshaya pramada alasya avirati bhranti-darshana alabdha-bhumikatva anavasthitatva chitta vikshepa te antarayah - Patanjali
Nine kinds of distractions/obstacles are naturally encountered on the path. They are;
1.) Physical illness, 
2.) Mental Dullness
3.) Doubt - Like doubting if this all a scam to propagate something like a religion, etc. 
4.) Negligence - Lack of attention to pursue it to the fullest (to samadhi)
5.) Laziness - Both physical and mental. Watching TV is more pleasing to the mind than contemplation.
6.) Cravings - Desire for the worldly things overtaking the determination on the path
7.) Misperceptions - deriving incorrect assumptions
8.) Failure - in attaining the defined next stages in practice, like satori (glimpses of absorption)
9.) Instability - failure to maintain the levels attained. Falling back from ability of perform an asana pose.

Once we know these 9 obstacles are to occur, it provides a comfort and ability to see through it. When one succumb to these obstacles, these four consequences occur.

duhkha daurmanasya angam-ejayatva shvasa prashvasah vikshepa sahabhuva - Patanjali
From these obstacles, there arise four consequences:
1.) Pain - Physical and psychological
2.) Sorrow - Frustration, sadness, dejection, 
3.) Unsteadiness - restlessness, shakiness, or anxiety.
4.) Breath Irregularity - irregularities in the exhalation and inhalation of breath.

To tackle all these 9 obstacles and their 4 consequences, there is a single anecdote, i.e., ekagrata meaning one-pointedness of the mind.

tat pratisedha artham eka tattva abhyasah - Patanjali
(Practicing one-pointedness prevents/shatters the distractions and its companions)

Lets discuss the actual tools (practices) to sharpen the concentration.

Trataka, one of the shat-karmas (the six kriyas of purification / detoxifying) is a best tool to start with.
1.) Dark place is needed and hence it is recommended to preform before sunrise or after a couple of hours after sunset in a room with the air-flow is normal so that the flame is mostly steady.
2.) Arrange a candle or a lamp so that the flame is at eye level in height and arm-length away from the eyes.
3.) Get seated in a comfortable position, Padmasana, Vajrasana, siddhasana or sukasana; But the spine and neck needs to be erect and you should be able to hold the posture without any movements for at least 24 minutes.
4.) Steady the breath by focusing on the exhalation and the natural retention for 5-10 breaths.
5.) Start Gazing at the flame without blinking until tears are flowing over the cheeks. Start doing it for 6 minutes and increase it to 24 minutes at your comfort level.

Trataka can also be performed on contrasting dot in a wall, moon, star and with a little practice one can bring the object to focus with closed eyes.

In the beginning, it'll feel impossible, but with very little effort, in a couple of days you'll be able to do it effortlessly. First 2 minutes needs quite an effort, once tears starts flowing, it automatically lubricates the eyes and its easy to hold the gaze without blinking. Breathing and blinking are the only two external activities we humans do both intentionally and unintentionally.

The actual practice of dharana (concentration) involves contemplation on a single object. For an outsider, it might look like dhyana (meditation), but they are quite different. Dharana involves explicit contemplation on a single object, while dhyana transcends upon the person and he/she is devoid of any thought.

Such Contemplation can be practiced on 9 different things.
1.) Four attitudes in dealing with people (Friendliness, Compassion, Admiration, Neutrality). These are extroverted by nature.
2.) Five aspects to focus on (breath awareness, sensation, inner luminosity, stability of mind, stream of thoughts). These are introverted.

Many schools of meditation emphasize only one method such as meditation on kindness, breath, or an external object and some combines two like vippasana (breath awareness and sensation). It is recommended to practice all 9 for several days before finding the few that resonate with your being.

Attitudes in dealing with people, is more of a course correction in daily livelihood. Most of our response to such situation are involuntary and automatic. There is quite a bit of unawareness and the response is not mindful. In yoga, acceptable attitudes are encapsulated into these four, which helps us evolve harmoniously.

maitri karuna mudita upekshanam sukha duhka punya apunya vishayanam bhavanatah chitta prasadanam - Patanjali
(The mind becomes purified by cultivating feelings of friendliness towards those who are happy, compassion for those who are suffering, goodwill towards those who are virtuous, and equanimity towards those we perceive as wicked or evil)

1.) Maitri (Friendliness): When we come across joyous people, often we unintentionally have a negative attitude towards them. This may not be a full repulsion, but realizing there is a trace of negativity and consciously encountering it and cultivating the positiveness will generate a great sense of inner calmness. Once experienced it is delightfully contagious and has the ability to wipe away all the negative traces in a short time.

2.) Karuna (Compassion): Most believe they are compassionate until they find themselves struck in a traffic because a fellow human met with an accident. Even simple things like, when an elderly person asks you for a glass of water when you are watching your favorite sitcom, all the compassion is out the window. Just taking note of such moments even after they happened is a good start. Slowly, the moment of realization will occur early and soon you become aware of the lack of compassion during the act and once the awareness occurs before your response, you are fully compassionate.

3.) Mudita (Admiration): When we encounter a person who is virtuous or benevolent, most feel jealous or inadequate and get into a self-loathing mode. Redirecting all these negative energy into pure admiration for that person is not an easy task. A good start would be to watch the inner turmoil that happens without identifying ourselves with it. This will lead to neutrality and slowly evolve into an honest admiration and goodwill for that person.

4.) Upekshanam (Neutrality): While dealing with someone dishonest, cruel or a very evil-intent person, a strong sense of anger and aversion arise. Such response hurt oneself the most. To counteract such negative emotion, cultivation of feeling of neutrality or equanimity is suggested. This might make one feel approving the actions of the person involved. But cultivating such neutrality will open the ways to cause the necessary change.

These four attitudes are practiced in day-to-day activities involving social relationship. Constantly observing oneself and consciously being away of the attitude towards others for months and years will ensure we are devoid of all the negative traces and successfully transformed all the attitudes into one of these four prescribed attitudes.

Five aspects to focus on is a very practical tool and can be practiced in cycle when you sit down for your hourly mediation every day. As obvious it is, it is introverted and practiced in solitude.

prachchhardana vidharanabhyam va pranayama - Patanjali
(The mind is also calmed by regulating the breath, particularly attending to exhalation and the natural stilling of breath that comes from such practice)

1.) Breath awareness is one of the finest methods prescribed for mind stability. Observe the natural flow of breath. ensure the transition between inhale and exhale is smooth and not abrupt. Consciously fine tune the transition. Once this is mastered, work on elongating the exhalation. Exhale slowly for twice the time it takes to inhale the same amount of breath. Watching this exhalation and observing the natural pause that occurs before next inhalation is extremely pacifying.

vishayavati va pravritti utpanna manasah sthiti nibandhani - Patanjali

(The inner concentration on the process of sensory experiencing, done in a way that leads towards higher, subtle sense perception; this also leads to stability and tranquility of the mind)

2.) Sensation - the process of keenly observing the sensory perceptions is the core principle of a key technique devised by Gauthama Buddha, known as vippasana. At first the practitioner might be more inclined to pursue the object of sensation. This should be consciously diverted to the process of sensation itself. Like when you feel a touch, pain, heat, cold or sweat, observe how the sensation feels like and how it arises and be gone. Quickly, move on to the next without any attachment (like/dislike) towards the sensation itself. This is one of the common practice amongst sages of the east.

vishoka va jyotishmati - Patanjali
(Or concentration on a painless inner state of lucidness and luminosity also brings stability and tranquility)

3.) Concentration on inner state - Focus on the heart charka (thymus gland) located exactly in the center between chests. Imagine a palm size luminous glow in this spot and stay focussed with every breath irrespective of thoughts and impressions arising in the mind.

yatha abhimata dhyanat va - Patanjali
(Or by contemplating or concentrating on whatever object or principle one may like, or towards which one has a predisposition, the mind becomes stable and tranquil)

4.) Stability of Mind - This is a little advanced as you are consciously tricking your mind temporarily. This is where idol worship comes into picture. Pick any objective reference of devotion and convince you mind that it is as calm and stable as that object's. With little practice you transcend into this state of tranquility with ease.

svapna nidra jnana alambanam va - Patanjali
(Or by focusing on the nature of the stream in the dream state or the nature of the state of dreamless sleep, the mind becomes stabilized and tranquil)

5.) Consciously focussing on stream of thoughts/dreams will stabilize the mind. This method is commonly prescribed by wise, but not easily understood by a common man. Generally, one tends to start responding to a thought with judgement and influence the successive thoughts. With a little practice, this involvement can be withdrawn and one can witness the stream of thoughts as just an observer. This process has a great calming effect and helps a person to realize the pattern of mind and take control of it with ease.

These methods are very critical tools in tuning the concentration which exemplifies the sensitivity of a practitioner to develop extra-sensory perceptions to experience the intensities of dhyana and samadhi.

Next: Yoga: 7. Dhyana (Meditation)