In Sanskrit the word laya means dissolution of one thing into another thing. Yet, what makes it different from samadhi and super consciousness? All the yogas should lead to a higher state where the dissolution of lower consciousness takes place. Whether one practices pranayama, kriya yoga, or meditation on God or guru, when the individual consciousness merges into super consciousness, it is in a state of dissolution, or a state of laya. In that case, every yoga is laya yoga. Still, laya yoga is a yoga in itself.
Super consciousness is the ultimate aim for each and every individual, as well as for this continuing process of evolution. In a super conscious state, one does not become unconscious, nor does one lose the individual consciousness; one remains completely aware of all that is happening inside as well as outside.
On the path that leads to super consciousness, one has to go with such alertness to ensure that one’s individual consciousness does not get suspended or dissolved. But, in the practices of laya yoga, the individual consciousness is made to lose its contact with the internal as well as the external.
The elements of prakriti, or the elements of nature, that are formed by the three gunas, sattwa, rajas and tamas, bring about a certain effect or movement in the pattern of human consciousness. Either one tries to completely transcend the three gunas in order to sit down at a higher level of superconductors, or one does not transcend them but instead tries to withdraw them for some time to achieve a meditative state. Laya yoga is a kind of yoga in which the physical brain centres, the nervous system and the centres of consciousness within the brain are consciously brought to a state of unconsciousness. One has complete and voluntary control over the process of dissolution of consciousness of the ‘I’. Just as one closes the eyes, opens them, closes them again, and opens them again, the practice of laya yoga is able to manifest the consciousness outside in one’s daily life and, at the same time, if one wants to, one can withdraw the whole consciousness and just get into complete unconsciousness and a complete state of dissolution.
There are two kinds of yoga: one in which one transcends nature or the three gunas, and another in which one tries to dissolve nature, prakriti, the three gunas, in the pattern of consciousness, or in the general body of consciousness. This is of course a short-cut method, but it has to be learned with a teacher, so that one does not make mistakes. It is not at all a difficult thing to do. One can do it but one needs a portion of pranayama and a portion of kriyas.
Another important point to remember is that in a state of super consciousness one is aware of awareness. In laya yoga one is aware of unawareness. Super consciousness is really difficult and it depends on one’s personal spiritual evolution, but one can force the practices of laya yoga on oneself, and bring about desired changes in the physical, mental and spiritual conditions.
For those who want to practise laya yoga, it is very important that they take to hatha yoga first. Hatha yoga has nothing to do with asanas and pranayama classically. Hatha yoga is an act of bringing about a balance between the sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous systems using certain methods. Asanas and pranayamas which have been practised in India, as well as in the West, do not form a part of hatha yoga or raja yoga, but they form a part of tantra. Unfortunately, our modern scholars, and scholars of the last century, made this horrible mistake because they thought that if they said they were practising tantra, people would be horrified, so they said they were practising yoga. I am sure that no yoga teacher in France has the courage to say, “I am teaching tantra.” But he will say, “I am teaching yoga.” However, he is not teaching yoga, he is teaching tantra, because asanas and pranayama form a most important item in the tantric system.
Hatha yoga is the six systems: neti, basti, kapalbhati, dhauti, trataka and nauli. One has to learn what these six systems are and how they are practised. For the practitioner of laya yoga it is very important that he practices neti. Neti is not cleaning of the nose, but it is irrigating or cooling the optic system, the frontal brain, the entire glottis and the whole mouth. By the practice of neti, if it is correctly done with water, rubber catheter, milk, butter, and clarified butter, one is able to awaken a certain gland which is situated in the interior of the nose behind the mucous membrane.
The next practice is called dhauti. One follows the process of drinking salt water and vomiting it out. Or it can be done as a form of cleansing, taking about sixteen glasses of water, a very simple matter, and bringing the whole quantity out through the anus, cleaning the system so completely that one passes the water exactly as it is taken in.
The third kriya is called kapalbhati. In the practice of kapalbhati, at one stretch one hundred pranayamas are to be done. After one hundred rounds one practices absolute exhalation and retains the breath out, and then practices moola bandha, uddiyana bandha and jalandhara bandha. Then again one hundred rounds are practised. Finally, one concentrates on chidakasha, the inner space, which one sees on the inner wall of the forehead. Practising kapalbhati one hundred times is not at all difficult provided one knows how to do it correctly. Everyone should do it in the morning at least twenty times to clean the nose. If one practices kapalbhati, one will know how true it is that, after one hundred rounds of kapalbhati practised thirty-six times, the mind will merge.
It is true that one can remember God in an easy chair, but in the practice of kapalbhati, absolute control over moola bandha, the urinary system and the abdominal system should be maintained. Therefore, kapalbhati should only be practised either in siddhasana or in padmasana.
In the West, people think that moola bandha is the control or the contraction of the anus, but it is not. It is a mistake that is made even in India. By moola bandha one should always remember that contraction of the perineum, and not contraction of the anus, is what is meant. The complete name of moola bandha is mooladhara bandha. Mooladhara is a chakra, the mooladhara psychic centre, and bandha means control. Contraction of mooladhara chakra is abbreviated as moola bandha. Therefore, before practising kapalbhati, one will have to practise mooladhara bandha correctly.
Ashwini mudra and moola bandha are two different practices, not one and the same, and they cannot be connected chronologically. Ashwini mudra is the contraction of the anus, the sphincter muscle. Whereas mooladhara bandha is control of the perineum in the masculine body, in the feminine structure it is control over the lowest part of the uterus. This must be practised before kapalbhati.
Also, jalandhara bandha has to be learned properly because practising jalandhara bandha with the chin just touching the chest is not correct. This is with reference to laya yoga and not in relation to daily practice. Jalandhara bandha cannot be practised while standing. It can only be practised in two asanas, namely padmasana, the lotus pose and siddhasana, the adepts pose, this is all. Jalandhara bandha brings about total control of the glands of the thyroid system and one has to know how to control these glands through the practice of jalandhara bandha.
When one practices kapalbhati the body should not move. It is said that if one does kapalbhati one hundred times for thirty-six rounds, the body should be like a statue. The kapalbhati breath has to proceed very gently. Gently one hundred rounds have to be done and one may come to the first stage of laya.
Trataka can be practised on a candle, on a black dot, or on a big or small crystal ball. Crystal balls are of two types, those which are transparent and those which are not transparent. The non-transparent crystals are known as shivalingams. There is a way, a method and a definite process of practising trataka. Trataka can bring about the awakening of one’s monstrous physical being. Therefore, even though one practices trataka for the eyes, for curing insomnia, it should be done correctly so that one does not develop wrong physical explosions.
Some people practised trataka and saw hell, monsters, ghosts, and such terrible beings that they stopped the whole practice. They thought perhaps that these beings really had come down. But, actually, it was an expression of what was suppressed in them. Therefore, when one practices trataka there is a system according to which one looks at the crystal, or at the black dot. The eyes should be open but there is nothing which one can see in front. The perception of the object disappears in toto.
However, the most important practice in hatha yoga is the practice of nauli. It is intended to recharge or awaken the navel centre, the solar plexus or the manipura chakra which is very important in laya yoga.
The word hatha means ida and pingala, the lunar and solar channels, the mental and vital energies or the sympathetic and the parasympathetic nervous channels. When there is complete balance of ida and pingala, which are really the nervous systems in the physical body, exactly at that moment the practitioner is ready for laya yoga. Otherwise he is going to fall into nervous imbalance through laya yoga.
Balance, harmony and equilibrium in these two great nervous systems can be brought about by nothing else except the practice of hatha yoga. If one does not practise hatha yoga and feels that one can get along without it, then the nervous imbalance, either the sympathetic or the parasympathetic imbalance, will manifest in the practice of laya yoga. Maybe the practitioners will become idiots or absolutely violent.
The practice of laya yoga constitutes an important exercise that brings about a state of total voluntary unconsciousness. Vajroli and two pranayamas known as moorchha and surya bedha pranayama should be practised.
Sitting in siddhasana or in the lotus pose, with eyes closed, one concentrates first on the abdominal viscera, in the lowest part of the abdomen, where the vasectomy operation is performed, and slowly contracts that point until the whole urinary tract is contracted inside. It happens step by step, and stage by stage. The lower abdominal viscera and the area of the entire genitalia are drawn inside. Then one has to release it as slowly as one had withdrawn it. This should be practised again, along with internal retention or antar kumbhaka, breathing in and retaining the breath inside. It is important that jalandhara bandha be performed at that moment. Then one practices vajroli mudra as long as it is possible. Finally, one adds the practices of moorchha and surya bedha pranayamas. At the end, one has to practise one of the kriyas known as navamukhi in tantra.
After practising these two kriyas for about ten minutes, the practitioner closes the eyes, and then makes a particular sound which must end with humming. It cannot just be the name of God. It should be a sound ending with humming hum, hum, and continued. He can take up Om and go on practising Om-Om-m-m, the M sound should be maintained continuously for half an hour, twenty minutes, or twenty-five minutes, or as long as it is practically possible. It is during the practice of Om-m-Om-m-Om-m that he will lose the individual consciousness, and be aware that he has become unconscious. He will have complete knowledge of the whole fact of unconsciousness that is taking place, but it will not be possible to know that he is humming Om-m-Om-m. Other people hear the gentle groaning, a mild tone which is repeated, but the consciousness of the practitioner is dissolving.
When one sleeps at night in deep slumber it is also laya yoga, but in that state the brain, the mind, the consciousness remain in a depressed condition and it is not stimulated and awakened. In the practices of laya yoga the brain and the consciousness are brought to a very high level, and in that high level the unconsciousness takes place.
Laya yoga really begins with this. However, if it is said that this is laya yoga, limits are set to the evolution of individual knowledge or individual consciousness. There is no difference between kundalini, laya and kriya yoga. There are many methods that can be practised and are taught for the dissolution of individual consciousness at a very heightened level.
It is said that an ordinary man sleeps on a bed, but the yogi sleeps in heaven. It only means that the ordinary man becomes unconscious at a low level of consciousness while a laya yogi becomes unconscious at a heightened and evolved level of his consciousness.
One needs about two hours in the morning to practise laya yoga. Preparation should take one month. The learning of the actual laya yoga kriyas can take up to one month. Then there are dietary restrictions. All that stands in the way of accelerating the human metabolism is against laya yoga. One of the most important points in laya yoga is the fact that, if the metabolism is not accelerated, one cannot achieve laya yoga at any cost. A laya yogi is not against milk, meat, chicken, fish or anything like that, but because certain diets stand in the way of the process of acceleration of the human metabolism, they do not even drink milk.
In addition, although some kinds of drug may of course bring about a state of unconsciousness, calmness, tranquility, and serenity, they ultimately interfere with the process of laya yoga.
In the scriptures on tantra, laya yoga is talked about with great respect. However, laya yoga has one great disadvantage. It takes one away from the by developing the supernatural or extrasensory qualities.
Whether it is the practice of kapalbhati, whether it is the practice of moorchha pranayama or the practice of vajroli, it definitely develops some of the ultrasonic or supersonic or para-psychological, whatever it may be called, brain centres. They are known as siddhis. Those siddhis, psychic powers, higher or lower in nature, divert the attention of human consciousness away from the higher self and that is the greatest barrier. Therefore, the practices of laya yoga should be done with a guru and in his presence.
There are many minor instructions concerning laya yoga. Laya yoga should not be practised by an unmarried person, and if one is not married and wants to practise laya yoga one should marry first, and then practise it. This is no joke. It is a scientific truth. The practitioner will have to lighten and unburden the posterior pituitary from the congested progesterone and oestrogen hormones and eliminate them so that the flower opens. There are certain toxins in the system, not only in the stomach, blood, heart, or lungs, not only in the muscles or bones. The toxins are also present in the nervous system, in the brain. One has to eliminate these toxins. It is only after that that laya yoga is going to bring serenity and total homogeneous dissolution.
I never teach laya yoga to people who are celibate. There may be many yogas such as bhakti yoga, kirtan, and japa yoga which I think are for all, but laya yoga is only for those people who are really married.
—1970, Divine Life Society Paris, France