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Wednesday, December 28, 2005

What is Yoga? (Part II)

Jan 31, 2005

A continuation from the “What is Yoga?” article in the previous newsletter.“Tam Yogam iti manyante stiram indriya dharanam”Controlling all of the senses, including the steadying of the mind, is known as yoga.- UpanishadsKrishna further defines the practice of yoga within the Bagavad Gita, a text of yoga, where he is referred to as a Yogeswara, or master of yoga. Krishna and Arjuna converse within the battlefield where Arjuna is taking the advice of Krishna prior to going into war. It is here that Krishna imparts the following advice to Arjuna:“Yogastah kuru karmani.”Perform the activity in the state of yoga.When Krishna instructs Arjuna, he is well aware that the activity to be performed, is that of fighting a war. If a war can be fought in a yogic way, all other activities must be able to be completed in the same manner!What does it mean to do an activity in a yogic way? It is definitely not combating while trying to keep the body in any yoga position! It must be something completely different. The earlier definitions we explored describe yoga as a technique to calm the mind or a method to develop inner harmony. Theoretically, this is a wonderful ideal to achieve and even fathomable when we are sitting alone without any interactions or activities which can contribute to the disturbances of the mind. However, when we say that yoga is a state of being that we are supposed to embrace at all times throughout our daily activities, even when at war, the concept seems more idealistic than practical. It is easier to conceptualize yoga as a practice we can do many times throughout the day, rather than accepting it as a way of doing all of our activities. This is where the true meaning of yoga is defined: when we are performing specific practices we are doing, but when we truly act in a yogic way, it is our being. Let us further understand the difference between “doing” and “being,” as yoga is more important as a way of life, a way of being, rather than simply a method of doing:Doing is external, while being is internal.Doing can be for a designated period of time, whereas being is always, at all times.Doing may not transform us, but being is a method of transformation, the way a bud becomes a flower.Doing may not percolate in to being, but being influences all of our “doing.”Doing may be useful for an individual, while being is useful for him/herself and those around him/her.Doing is often a cover or mask which does not penetrate deep into the self, while being is a catharsis.By simply performing the “practices” of yoga, one will not be a yogi, or a person in the state of yoga. One must be a yogi from within in order to permeate those qualities in all walks of life.Within the Indian context, this concept is not new. In our childhood, our grandmothers were quick to question a “yogi” in anger, “ What is the use of doing yoga, when he always gets angered and is short-tempered?” It is through such examples, that we understand that whatever practice of yoga one does, is not as effective as having a peaceful and undisturbed existence, the essence of internalizing yoga.Swami Vivekananda beautifully stated, “Each soul is potentially divine and the goal is to manifest the divinity within by controlling the nature, external and internal. This you do either by work, worship, philosophy, and psychic control. One or more or all of these methods and be free.” He further added, “ Temples, rituals, books, dogmas, and doctrines are but secondary details.”The theory is understandable, but it leads us to more practical questions. Why do we do the physical positions or breathing and cleansing exercises in the name of yoga if it is a state of inner harmony? What is its relationship with meditation? How are all these various techniques, from hot yoga to hatha yoga, from kundalini meditation to chakra meditations, interconnected? Why are there so many techniques of yoga and which is correct and incorrect? Why and how yoga helps in addressing health problems? Supposing, we do yoga for health reasons, I am healthy now, so why should I continue to do practices of yoga? The potential divinity as mentioned by Krishna is the state of yoga which does not need to be acquired but is already within us. The key is to remove whatever it is that is obstructing the manifestation of this divinity, or Vritis as referred to by Sage Patanjali. In order to determine the obstacles covering our divinity, how we acquired them, and the level at which they are covering our divinity, we need to understand our true personality. This is further described in the Upanishads and is referred to as Panca Kosa Viveka.


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