Loading ...
Sorry, an error occurred while loading the content.

Yoga - What It Is and What It Is Not

Expand Messages
  • Swami Jnaneshvara Bharati
    YOGA—WHAT IT IS AND WHAT IT IS NOT By Swami Chidananda In Sanskrit, the primary definition of the term Yoga is the state of union with the Divine or the
    Message 1 of 1 , Nov 20, 2005
      By Swami Chidananda

      In Sanskrit, the primary definition of the term Yoga is the state of
      union with the Divine or the experience of oneness with the great
      Reality. Yoga, therefore, represents the experience of Truth, the
      consciousness of Reality, the union with the Divine. There are also
      secondary meanings of the term Yoga. Yoga is also a set of
      scientifically evolved and intelligently formulated practical
      techniques enabling man to shed himself of all the impurities imposed
      upon him by the nature of his body, mind and senses, and aiding him
      to concentrate his thoughts entirely upon the Supreme. Thus Yoga
      means anything that man may do to purify his lower nature, to
      restrain his senses, to direct his mind towards God, to come into a
      deep interior level of worship of the Divine and finally to realise
      his eternal oneness with the Divine Consciousness.

      The application of yoga is universal. It may be applied within the
      religious framework. Yet it clearly transcends religion. It is supra-
      religious, far beyond any dogma or doctrine. The extent and duration
      of its applicability is commensurate with the whole of humanity for
      all time. I shall attempt to show you the significance that Yoga
      holds for everyone in this great and eventful twentieth century.

      First and foremost, Yoga is not mere acrobatics. Some people suppose
      that Yoga is primarily concerned with the manipulation of the body
      into various queer positions, standing on the head, for instance, or
      twisting about the spine, or assuming any of the numerous odd poses
      which are demonstrated in the text-books on Yoga. These techniques
      are correctly employed in one distinct type of Yoga practice, but
      they do not form an integral part of the most essential type.
      Physical posture serve at best as an auxiliary, or a minor form of

      Secondly, Yoga is not the performance of magical feats. I mention
      this especially because among the many misconceptions that abound
      about Yoga, this one is due to certain pretensions which have been
      made by fake Yogins—pseudo-Yogins. Anything that is good is all too
      easily corrupted by perverted people. At all times in the history of
      the world this has happened. Behind the deliberate mystification of
      things pertaining to Yoga there lies a selfish motive. Unfortunately,
      the distortion of this true science is the consequence. It will not
      be out of place, therefore, for me to tell you frankly and clearly
      that not all that has been put across as Yoga is really Yoga. Yoga is
      certainly not magic, nor is it the performance of any extraordinary
      or unusual mystical feat.

      Neither is Yoga 'Fakirism', the impression that is obtained by many
      tourists and travellers, especially by news-people who, with a strong
      preference for the sensational and the fantastic, have managed to
      create the fantastic idea that Yoga is some form of self-torture—
      lying on a bed of nails, burying oneself underground, chewing or
      swallowing pieces of glass, drinking acid, swallowing nails or
      piercing oneself with pins and needles. This has nothing to do with
      Yoga, and real Yogins have nothing to do with all this.

      Neither is Yoga any weird ceremonial or peculiar rite. It is not
      hedonism. It is not paganism. It is not palmistry. It is not
      prophesying. It is not astrology. It is not thought-reading, nor is
      it the dispensing of charms to ward off evil spirits
      or 'possessions'. None of these is Yoga. If people call themselves
      Yogins and then explain their Yoga by exhibiting any of these unusual
      feats, then they are misusing the term Yoga. Yoga is not auto-
      hypnotism or self-hypnosis. It is not doing of incantations or by the
      monotonous performance of gestures. Yoga is not experiences like
      those obtained by taking lysergic acid or mescalin or peyote (of
      Mexican origin) or divine mushrooms. These experiences are not Yoga,
      nor are they products of Yoga.

      Neither is Yoga a religious cult. Certain Eastern concepts do lie
      behind it. This is true. But these concepts do not have anything to
      do with the evolution of the science Proper. Yoga is comprised of
      highly evolved and practical techniques which may be applied by
      persons of any race, nation, caste, creed, church or sect. As
      philosophical definitions were being formed and as religious concepts
      of the Hindus were being formulated, the science of Yoga was evolved.
      Certain metaphysical concepts are peculiarly Hindu and Eastern, but
      Yoga which is separable from its philosophical and metaphysical
      background, is a science of universal and practical value. Yoga is
      essentially a spiritual matter concerning spiritual methods. It is an
      intensely practical approach towards the realisation of the supreme
      Reality, the very Centre of all life—God. And it is the heritage of
      all humanity.

      Worshipful Gurudev Sri Swami Sivanandaji Maharaj used to tell a
      beautiful parable regarding the importance and truth about Yoga:
      There was a big tree in a jungle. On the top of a branch there was a
      very big honey-comb. But the ascent to the top of the tree was
      difficult. One had to cut steps on the trunk of the tree and ascend;
      but that demanded great patience and intelligent work.

      A slender creeper entwined that tree and reached up to a great part
      of the height. It appeared to be strong, though it perilously dangled
      in the air.

      A greedy man, desirous of possessing honey, without much effort,
      began to ascend the tree with the sole help of the creeper. He was
      too lazy to cut steps on the trunk of the tree and thought that the
      creeper was strong enough to take him to the top. When he was a few
      feet above the ground, a violent wind broke the creeper and the man
      fell down and fractured his limbs.

      Similar is the case with those who try to ascend the tree of Yoga
      (Divinity), in order to drink the honey of Moksha, with the help of
      the creeper of Kamya Karmas (actions with selfish motives and
      desires) through short-cut paths. The path of Yoga lies along the
      trunk of the tree of Divinity. You have to improvise steps on it,
      with some effort, which is Sadhana (spiritual practices). You have to
      ascend step by step, starting with Yama, Niyama, Asana, Pranayama,
      Pratyahara, Dharana, Dhyana and then reach the pinnacle of Samadhi.
      There is no short-cut to this. You cannot evade this responsibility.
      If, on the other hand, you climb with the help of Kamya-Karmas,—
      though they, too, appear to be strong,—they will not take you to the
      heights of Yoga. When the wind of selfish desires, greed for the
      things of this world and the pleasures of heaven, blows, this creeper
      of Karma will break and you will have a terrible fall.

      O man! Selfish works will not lead you to the Goal of Yoga. Only
      unselfish works will help you. Sadhana means something much sterner.
      You have to ascend the top through the hard way. But once you reach
      the top, you will drink the nectar of Immortality and Eternal Bliss.

      There are various systems of Yoga which I shall now briefly describe.
      The first is the intellectual system in which man employs his human
      faculties in a supreme exercise: the realisation of the Truth. This
      is known as Jnana Yoga or the Yoga of Intellect. One listens to the
      expositions of the nature of God, acquires an understanding of the
      Reality, then by reflecting upon it again and again, ultimately, one
      penetrates into it through the power of reason in the depths of

      The second system is known as Bhakti Yoga or the Yoga of Devotion or
      Love. This is a very sweet path, one which is peculiarly suited and
      easily adapted to the emotional temperament. One grows into close
      relationship with the Supreme Being by constantly thinking about Him,
      praying to Him, worshipping Him, feeling Him close, so close that one
      naturally walks with Him, talks with Him, lives, moves and has one's
      being in Him. A link is set up whereby pure love is directed to God.
      In this exercise, the human being becomes totally integrated.

      In the third system, all phases of life's activities are dedicated to
      God. On an unselfish basis, man's duties are thus integrated. This is
      known as Karma Yoga or the Yoga of selfless service. The prime and
      crucial act in this system is the shedding of the ego. When the
      personal ego is completely abnegated, all creatures upon earth are
      clearly apprehended as visible manifestations of God, as moving
      temples in which the Divine is enshrined. The service of others then
      becomes natural and easy, and every act is performed not as a secular
      act, but as an act of worship. Engaged in the transmutation of
      dynamism into divine realisation, one may do his worship everywhere.
      The teacher in the school, the doctor in the hospital, the farmer in
      the field, the businessman in the stock-exchange, everyone engaged in
      professional activity, can transmute his dynamism into pure devotion
      by adopting a humble and worshipful inner attitude.

      In the fourth system, man is employed in a very special process in
      which all thought is made to merge in God. One becomes more and more
      aware of God as the Centre of being. This is a very beautiful path
      also. It is known as Raja Yoga or the Yoga of Concentration and
      Meditation. Thought is movement of the mind-stuff. Movement of the
      mind-stuff is produced by motion of the vital-life, force within
      called Prana and by movement of the body. Thus, thought, Prana and
      the body are all interconnected. Total subdual and control of the
      body may be brought about by keeping it in a fixed and steady
      posture. Subdual and control of the inner psychic energy may be
      obtained by practising techniques of breath-control. And ultimately,
      all the scattered rays of the mind may be withdrawn from the
      multifarious universe and made to concentrate solely upon the one
      idea of God. In this culminating process, man is raised above the
      level of the mind, taken into a state of superconsciousness in which
      the experience of oneness with God is realised, and he is released
      forever from the bondage to the body and from death itself. There are
      many heartening signs that this Yoga is being considered by many
      seekers in the West to be the most suitable method for the solution
      of the perplexing problems of their civilisation.
    Your message has been successfully submitted and would be delivered to recipients shortly.