Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Yoga by Swami Sivananda

Sri Swami Sivananda:
To live in God, to commune with God, is Yoga. Life in God brings eternal bliss.
Yoga shows you the way. Yoga unites you with God. Yoga makes you immortal.
Yoga is complete life. It is a method which overhauls all the sides of the human personality.
Yoga is a system of integral education, education not only of the body and the mind or the intellect, but also of the inner spirit.
Yoga shows you the marvelous method of rising from badness to goodness, and from goodness to godliness, and then to eternal divine splendor.
Yoga is the art of right living. The Yogin who has learned the art of right living is happy, harmonious, and peaceful. He is free form tension.
Yoga is a science perfected by ancient seers of India, not of India merely, but of humanity as a whole. It is an exact science. It is a perfect, practical system of self-culture.
A Way of Life
Yoga does not want a turning away from life. It demands spiritualization of life.
Yoga is primarily a way of life, not something which is divorced from life. Yoga is not forsaking of action, but is efficient performance in the right spirit. Yoga is not running away from home and human habitation, but a process of molding one’s attitude to home and society with a new understanding.

Yoga Is Universal
Yoga is for all. Yoga is universal. It is not a sectarian affair. It is a way to God and not a creed.
The practice of Yoga is not opposed to any religion or any sacred Church. It is purely spiritual and universal. It does not contradict any one’s sincere faith.
Yoga is not a religion, but an aid to the practice of the basic spiritual truths in all religions. Yoga can be practiced by a Christian or a Buddhist, a Parsee, a Mohammedan, a Sufi or an atheist.
To be a Yogin means to abide continuously in God and to live in peace with men. Yoga is union with God. Yoga is union with all. God dwells in all.

Yoga Is not Physical Exercise
The idea of the novice that Yoga constitutes physical exercises or mere Asanas and Pranayama, etc., is a terrible error. Yoga asanas, Pranayama, Bandhas, Mudras, and Kriyas have nothing to do with real Yoga. They are considered to be aids in Yoga practice.
Most people do not have access to Yoga beyond its physical level, because true Yoga needs intense personal discipline coupled with intense thinking under the guidance of an able teacher. Yoga promises super physical and spiritual blessing. It becomes unattractive to a common man who clamors for immediate fruits and worldly prosperity.

Prerequisites for Yoga Life
Moral purity and spiritual aspiration are the first steps in the path of Yoga. One who has a calm mind, who has faith in the words of his Guru and Shastras, who is moderate in eating and sleeping, and who has the intense longing for deliverance from the Samsara-Chakra is a qualified person for the practice of Yoga.
An aspirant in the path of Yoga should have faith, energy, cheerfulness, courage, patience, perseverance, sincerity, purity, lack of despondency of mind, dispassion, aspiration, concentration, serenity, self-restraint, truthfulness, non-violence, non-covetousness, etc.
An austere and simple life is indispensable for Yoga. The foundation of Yoga is self-control. Discipline is the essence of Yoga, discipline of the body as well as discipline of the mind.
In the practice of Yoga, there is a reversal of the normal outgoing activity of the mind. Steadiness of mind is very essential for a reversal of the normal outgoing activity of the mind. Unless the mind is first made steady and brought under complete control, it will not be possible to change its course to the opposite direction.

The Four Paths
The four main spiritual paths of God-realization are Karma Yoga, Bhakti Yoga, Raja Yoga, and Jnana Yoga. Karma Yoga is suitable for a man of active temperament, Bhakti Yoga for a man of devotional temperament, Raja Yoga for a man of mystic temperament, and Jnana Yoga for a man of rational and philosophical temperament.
Karma Yoga is the way of selfless service. Bhakti Yoga is the path of exclusive devotion to the Lord. Raja Yoga is the way of self-restraint. Jnana Yoga is the path of wisdom.
Karma Yoga is the exercise of the will. Jnana Yoga is the exercise of the intellect and reason. Bhakti Yoga is the exercise of the emotion. Will consecrates all activities through compete surrender to God. The intellect realizes the glory and majesty of the Lord. The emotion experiences the bliss of divine ecstasy.
The three eternal truths are: Jnana, Karma, and Bhakti. God is love, goodness, and truth. God is experienced by the devotee as love. God is experienced by the Karma Yogin as goodness. God is experienced by the Jnani as truth.
Some maintain that the practice of Karma Yoga alone is the means to salvation. Some others hold that devotion to the Lord is the only way to God-realization Some believe that the path of wisdom is the sole way to attain the final beatitude. There are still others who hold that all the three paths are equally efficacious to bring about perfection and freedom.

The Yoga of Synthesis
One-sided development is not commendable. Religion must educate and develop the whole man – his heart, intellect, and hand. The only he will reach perfection.
Man is a strange, complex mixture of will, feeling, and thought. He wills to posses the objects of his desires. He has emotion; and so he feels. He has reason and so he thinks and ratiocinates. In some the emotional element may preponderate, while in some others the rational element may dominate. Just as will, feeling and thought are not distinct and separate, so also, work, devotion, and knowledge are not exclusive of one another.
In the mind, there are three defects, viz., Mala or impurity, Vikshepa or tossing, and Avarana or veil. The impurity should be removed by the practice of Karma Yoga. The tossing should be removed by worship or Upasana. The veil should be torn down by the practice of Jnana Yoga. Only then Self-realization is possible.
If you want to see your face clearly in a mirror, you must remove the dirt in the mirror, keep it steady, and remove the covering also. You can see your face clearly on the surface of the lake only if the turbidity is removed, if the water that is agitated by the wind is rendered still, and if the moss that is lying on the surface is removed. Even so is the case of Self-realization
Action, emotion and intelligence are the three horses that are linked to this body-chariot. They should work in perfect harmony or unison. Then only the chariot will run smoothly. There must be integral development. You must have the head of Sankara, the heart of Buddha, and the hand of Janaka.
The Yoga of Synthesis alone will bring about integral development. The Yoga of Synthesis alone will develop the head, heart, and hand, and lead one to perfection. To become harmoniously balanced in all directions is the ideal of religion. This can be achieved by the practice of the Yoga of Synthesis.
To behold the one Self in all beings is Jnana, wisdom; to love Self is Bhakti, devotion; to serve the Self is Karma, action. When the Jnana Yogin attains wisdom, he is endowed with devotion and selfless activity. Karma Yoga is for him a spontaneous expression of his spiritual nature, as he sees the one Self in all. When the devotee attains perfection in devotion, he is possessed with wisdom and activity. For him also, Karma Yoga is a spontaneous action of his divine nature, as he beholds the one Lord everywhere. The Karma Yogin attains wisdom and devotion when his actions are wholly selfless. The three paths are, in fact, one in which the three different temperaments emphasize one or the other of its inseparable constituents. Yoga supplies the method by which the Self can be seen, loved, and served.

Benefits of Yoga Practice
Life today is full of stress and strain, of tension and nervous irritability, of passion and hurry. If man puts into practice a few of the elementary principles of Yoga, he would be far better equipped to cope with his complex existence.
Yoga brings in perfection, peace, and lasting happiness. You can have calmness of mind at all times by the practice of Yoga. You can have restful sleep. You can have increased energy, vigor, vitality, longevity, and a high standard of health. You can turn out efficient work within a short span of time. You can have success in every walk of life. Yoga will infuse in you new strength, confidence, and self-reliance. The body and mind will be at your beck and call.
Yoga brings your emotions under control. It increases your power of concentration at work. Yoga discipline gives poise and tranquility and miraculously rebuilds one’s life. The Yoga way of life deepens man’s understanding and enables him to know God and his relationship with Him.
Yoga leads from ignorance to wisdom, from weakness to strength, from disharmony to harmony, from hatred to love, from want to fullness, from limitation of infinitude, from diversity to unity, and from imperfection to perfection. Yoga gives hope to the sad and forlorn, strength to the weak, health to the sick, and wisdom to the ignorant.
Through Yogic discipline, mind, body and the organ of speech work together harmoniously. For a Yoga practitioner, a new outlook, a new health, a new awareness and a new philosophy rush in and vividly transform his life.
Lust for power, material greed, sensual excitement, selfishness, passion for wealth, and lower appetites have drawn man form his true life in the spirit into the materialistic life. He can regain his lost divine glory if he practices, in right earnest, the principles of Yoga. Yoga transmutes animal nature into divine nature and raises him to the pinnacle of divine glory and splendor

Spiritual Growth Is Gradual
It is within the power of everybody to attain success in Yoga. What is wanted is sincere devotion, constant and steady Abhyasa.
Spiritual growth is gradual. There is progressive evolution. You should not be in a feverish hurry to accomplish Yogic feats or enter into Nirvikalpa Samadhi, in two or three months.
The senses have to be thoroughly subjugated. Divine virtues have to be cultivated. Evil qualities have to be eradicated. The mind has to be controlled thoroughly. The task is a stupendous one. It is an uphill work. You will have to practice rigorous Tapas and meditation and wait patiently for the results. You will have to ascend the ladder of Yoga step by step. You will have to march in the spiritual path stage by stage.

A Note of Caution
After attaining perfection in Yoga, one can enter the world if he is not affected even a bit by the unfavorable, hostile currents of the world. Many persons enter the world before perfection in Yoga to demonstrate their minor powers in the name of Loka-Sangraha and for fame. They have been reduced to a level worse than that of a worldly man.
If a Yogin is not careful, if a Yogin is not well-established in the preliminary practices of Yama, Niyama, he is unconsciously swept away from his ideal by temptation – Mara or Satan. He uses his powers for selfish ends and suffers a hopeless downfall. His intellect becomes blind, perverted, and intoxicated. His understanding gets clouded. He is no longer a divine Yogin. He becomes a black-magician or Yogic charlatan. He is a black sheep within the fold of Yogins. He is a menace to the society at large
Many people are attracted to the practice of Pranayama and other Yogic exercises, as it is through Yoga that psychic healing, telepathy, thought-transference, and other great Siddhis have obtained. If they attain success, they should not remain there alone. The goal of life is not ‘healing’ and ‘Siddhis’. They should utilize their energy in attaining the highest.
Yoga is not for attaining Siddhis or powers. If a Yogic student is tempted to attain Siddhis, his further progress is seriously retarded. He has lost the way.
The Yogin who is bent upon getting the highest Samadhi must reject Siddhis whenever they come. Siddhis are invitations from Devatas. Only by rejecting these Siddhis can one attain success in Yoga.
Do not stop Sadhana when you get a few glimpses and experiences. Continue the practice till you attain perfection. Do not stop the practice and move about in the world. Examples are not lacking. Numerous persons have been ruined. A glimpse cannot give you safety.
From: Bliss Divine. A Book of Spiritual Essays on the Lofty Purpose of Human Life And the Means to Its Achievement. Published by: Divine Life Society (7th edition, 2006/1964): pp. 553-559.

Letter to New York Yoga Teachers

Om Namo Narayanaya

Dear fellow Yoga teachers,

A Yoga teachers training course is first and foremost a life transforming spiritual experience. Teaching Yoga and training Yoga teachers is part of our spiritual practice in this tradition. I think that if you speak to most of the teachers, if you ask their personal experience, you will find that they teach primarily as a part of their Yoga practice. I do not think I have ever met anyone who taught Yoga to become rich or primarily as a way of making money. I understand what you are seeing from the outside looks like big business, and to the state it must look like a good source of tax revenue. A person looking from the outside might think the same thing about any mainstream church. So just the issue of the money generated is not enough to say that a practice is not spiritual. I would like to speak to both the sectarian issue and the financial one. They are both important and I believe neither is in contradiction with our claiming that our Yoga practice and teaching are part of religious traditions originating in India, distinct yet with common scriptural sources. I would also claim that if we do not protect our first amendment rights there is a good possibility that down the road our sacred traditions will be regulated out of existence.

Yoga is a sacred spiritual tradition. As one of the six darshanas, or schools of Hindu philosophy it has its own scripture – the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali. This scripture is a practical treatise on spiritual liberation studied by devout monks and lay practitioners of both the Hindu and Buddhist faiths throughout its history of over 2,000 years. Even more than the Bhagavad Gita or the Upanishads it is a Universal scripture that deals with ethics, cosmology, meditation techniques, prayer, and treatises on sin and suffering and the means to overcome them. It also speaks of God as Ishwara. Even in its description of Yoga asanas, the Yoga Sutras assert that "Posture is mastered by releasing tension and meditation on the Unlimited", II-47. Another scripture widely studied as an authority more specifically of Hatha Yoga is the Hatha Yoga Pradipika, by Swatma Rama. This scripture begins with the verse, " I salute the primeval Lord, Siva, who taught to Parvati the Hatha Yoga Vidya, which is a stairway for those who wish to attain the most excellent Raja Yoga." I-1.
Yoga in its general meaning includes Vedanta philosophy - jnana yoga, devotional practices - bhakti yoga; and the yoga of selfless service - karma yoga. Yoga is practiced in different forms by thousands of Hindu sects, and guru traditions within and without Hinduism. Hinduism in itself honors God in many forms. The different forms are meditations on the one Absolute reality which is beyond and includes all names and forms and even includes faiths outside of Hinduism - even atheism.

I see three main groups of Yoga schools in America at this time: 1) Guru lineage schools which are spiritual by their connection to their sacred lineages and scriptures. 2) Small independent schools that have "evolved" from the lineage schools into some hybrid form such as "Yoga therapy", Yoga and massage, Yoga and sewing, etc. 3) Corporate Yoga designed by style and function, to attract as many students and make as much money as possible. Here Yoga traditions have been transformed into "brand names" and teachers are trained in recognizable styles which often have their spiritual components processed out. These teachers are trained as technicians appearing like one of the first two categories without the spiritual practice or philosophy. I see this as a mixed blessing as the "factories" have helped spread Yoga throughout the American culture. But as these watered down versions of classical Yoga have become more visible on the American landscape, and more and more money has gotten involved, the spiritual roots have become blurred if not lost.

Like many of the Indian lineage schools, we were established as a religious 501(c)3 organization, and we teach and practice yoga asanas as part of a larger spiritual discipline. Specifically our mission is to propagate the teachings of yoga and vedanta as a means of achieving physical, mental and spiritual well-being and Self-realization. We teach in the prisons and schools, at the UN and have centers and ashrams around the world, teaching in many languages. We are even training Yoga teachers in the deaf community. We teach a spiritual practice, as service to the community, to our gurus and to humanity as a whole. Swami Vishnudevananda, our founder and guru, pioneered Yoga Teacher Training in the West in 1969, and now Yoga has become so popular that the public and Yoga teachers themselves have convinced themselves that Yoga is not religious.

Yoga means religion. It is only in our western context that religion is considered something sectarian and threatening to "non-believers". If we can break out of the rajasic, exclusive box we have put religion in, it is evident that Yoga is religious. In its classical form, the Yoga of the Yoga Sutras, of the Hatha Yoga Pradipika, of the Bhagavad Gita, of the Upanishads and the great masters is Universal Religion, large enough to embrace all sects and traditions. If we want Yoga to continue in the USA we need to educate people to Yoga as Universal religion with many lineages, darshanas, and forms. Even the hybrid forms have their place in a healthy soil for Yoga to continue to grow and mature, including all its vast physical, mental, psychic and spiritual dimensions. The fact that one can be Hindu, or Buddhist, or Muslim, a Christian or a Jew, and still practice Yoga as part of your spiritual practice is not a contradiction. Its been done for ages in India and we, as well as many other lineage traditions have been very successful in opening that space in the west. In fact this is one of Yoga's greatest gifts to western culture, spiritualising all aspects of Life rather than the western tendency to sterilize sacred traditions of their very life blood. Swami Sivananda called the life of Yoga the "Divine Life". One could say that the origins of Yoga Teachers Training Courses as the teaching of Divine Life.

Finally, money is always an issue in maintaining religious, ethical purity, but it is not a legal issue. One of the signs of successful religion is prosperity. Unless all the practitioners take vows of poverty, the good karma created by religions generates wealth. Though Hatha Yoga texts ask practitioners to live simply, money is "shakti", or energy which can create build, and aid those in need. Yet we need to be aware that the big money in the Yoga "business" is in the corporate exploitation of Yoga for profit. You used the example of the Yoga Journal. With all of my respect for the work that the Yoga Journal has done promoting Yoga in America, it is owned and run by a large corporations. It has been bought and sold several times over the years, and I believe it has only been in its present incarnation for less than two years. The way corporations have devoured magazines and newspapers that were once institutions of information and turned them into hollow pulp, I do not think we can count on the Yoga Journal to protect any spiritual standards of Yoga. The Yoga clothes and accessory industry really has nothing to do with classical Yoga than opening new markets. Here is the URL for the media conglomerate that now owns the Yoga Journal: www.activeinterestmedia.com/article_display_6.html

The Sivananda Yoga Vedanta Centers trains teachers around the world and don't need to train teachers in New York State to survive. Moreover, we have the facilities, and the infrastructure in New York State to easily meet the current requirements for licensing. If we allow our curriculum to be regulated by the state, eventually it will be the commercial, corporate Yoga businesses that will set the standards for Yoga. When this happens Yoga training will become standardized like massage schools or medical technician schools. If we can hold the space for classical Yoga schools to maintain their spiritual lineages and to continue to teach without being regulated by the State, then there will be room for independent schools as well as the corporate Yoga factories. When corporations use the state to regulate the market the state works as an accomplice to manipulate the market, build monopoly and monoculture. The more the diversity the healthier the society and especially the Yoga will remain. I ask that you all reflect to see if your Yoga training is true to its spiritual roots and would like to file a religious exemption to curriculum regulation. This may not seem to be the issue here, but I believe in the long run it is the main issue.

Om and Prem, Srinivasan