Jul 1, 2022

Book Review: Choosing a Path by Swami Rama

 From the book "Practical Yoga psychology" that I read a year ago, I learned the basics about the different paths of Yoga - Karma Yoga, Bhakti Yoga, Jnana Yoga, and Raja Yoga.

I picked up this book "Choosing a Path" to understand these paths in depth. It was quite a dense and theoretical read. Each path is explained in detail - the principles and practices to be followed in the journey.

It was an informative read with good examples to relate to. There were many inspiring and thought-provoking phrases/passages throughout the book.

The chapters on Jnana Yoga and Raja Yoga were super interesting and they seem to be the paths that I'm able to connect and relate to easily.

"In the path of knowledge, blind faith is completely shunned. Know, analyze, and then realize. By realizing the Truth, faith comes itself. Such a faith can never mislead one."

I have heard from multiple sources that the Universe / Supreme cosmic power is always guiding us in the right direction. Once I understood and experienced it myself, I started to believe in this truth firmly.

It's certainly not a light read to skim through in one sitting. It requires time to read and digest the information. I was able to follow the author until the 4 paths of Yoga, after which the chapters on Laya Yoga and Kundalini Yoga were so complex. They went over my head and I couldn't understand them completely.

Key takeaways for me:

The preparatory stage is crucial before choosing a specific path. In this stage, we consciously move toward our inner world. We relook at our habits - food, sleep, breath, mindfulness, concentration.

Raja Yoga and Ashtanga Yoga are the same. The first 4 limbs of Ashtanga Yoga come under the category of Hatha Yoga.

The first 2 limbs - Yamas and Niyamas need to be incorporated consciously into our daily lives, and only then the 3rd limb - Asanas will be effective on our body.

Deeper practices of Pranayama, especially Kumbhaka (retention) are advanced stages and should be performed with caution or with the guidance of a Guru.

A few favorite passages:

"Negative thoughts convert the nutrients of food into poison. Thus the body builds up toxins. Inhalation and exhalation are like two caretakers whose duties are regulated by our mental life."

"Only by studying the present portion of one's own manuscript, of one's own life, is it possible to know life."

"Without knowing oneself on all dimensions, knowing the world or others is of no use."

"Self-condemnation leads to guilt feelings, and guilt feelings create psychosomatic disorders."

"Expectation is the mother of all problems. Expectation mingled with attachment brings all the miseries of the world."

"One has to learn to discipline himself so that his senses do not dissipate his energy and his mind."

"Creating love for one's duty will give freedom from stress."

"Studying one's own thoughts, emotions, deeds, and actions is the real study."

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