Live free yoga

Liberated living through the sadhana of yog; enlivened by the grace of my satguru Yogiraj Siddhanath.


8 Comments

Leave the mind/ego outside with the shoes?

-an antithetical viewpoint

<p class="has-text-align-justify" value="<amp-fit-text layout="fixed-height" min-font-size="6" max-font-size="72" height="80">Offering my respect to that irritating grain of sand that initiates the forming of the pearl I will dive right into a topic that has been bubbling on the surface of my mind for a while. Do remember my blogs are written as a bit of fun and light heartedly.Offering my respect to that irritating grain of sand that initiates the forming of the pearl I will dive right into a topic that has been bubbling on the surface of my mind for a while. Do remember my blogs are written as a bit of fun and light heartedly.

Establishing having an Ego

<p class="has-text-align-justify" value="<amp-fit-text layout="fixed-height" min-font-size="6" max-font-size="72" height="80">Being my nature to ponder on the spiritual and the so called spiritual, the intellectual and the so called intellectual, and finding it exciting to engage in this pursuit in my time away from my <em>sadhana</em>, it has become a rather enjoyable pastime of mine. In reality, some of these realisations are a result of the said sadhana when the lens turns and shines a light upon, among other subjects, popular sayings that belie a belief system. In fact you can call this my rubik's cube, sudoku or crossword puzzle, so to speak. An engaging of the intellect to keep it sharp and not dulled or rather lulled into complacence. An Adi Shankaracharya inspired dialogue/debate occurring within myself; it is not uncommon for me, to find myself in conversation with my Self! Being my nature to ponder on the spiritual and the so called spiritual, the intellectual and the so called intellectual, and finding it exciting to engage in this pursuit in my time away from my sadhana, it has become a rather enjoyable pastime of mine. In reality, some of these realisations are a result of the said sadhana when the lens turns and shines a light upon, among other subjects, popular sayings that belie a belief system. In fact you can call this my rubik’s cube, sudoku or crossword puzzle, so to speak. An engaging of the intellect to keep it sharp and not dulled or rather lulled into complacence. An Adi Shankaracharya inspired dialogue/debate occurring within myself; it is not uncommon for me, to find myself in conversation with my Self!

<p class="has-text-align-justify" value="<amp-fit-text layout="fixed-height" min-font-size="6" max-font-size="72" height="80">This habit, I realise now, had started very young when often I would find myself deeply (deeply yet humorously, for sure) pondering the vedantic philosophies discussed at home and the meaning of brahminical mantras constantly chanted by my elders. Stories from the Bhagavatam, the Mahabharat and Ramayan, the panchatantra would all be examined while being enjoyed. Adi Shankaracharya was a great favorite of my father and his quotes were applied to many and sundry situations internally and externally. This inculcated an atmosphere of debates and discussions, sometimes heated but always ending in a handshake, on which my father insisted. This habit, I realise now, had started very young when often I would find myself deeply (deeply yet humorously, for sure) pondering the vedantic philosophies discussed at home and the meaning of brahminical mantras constantly chanted by my elders. Stories from the Bhagavatam, the Mahabharat and Ramayan, the panchatantra would all be examined while being enjoyed. Adi Shankaracharya was a great favorite of my father and his quotes were applied to many and sundry situations internally and externally. This inculcated an atmosphere of debates and discussions, sometimes heated but always ending in a handshake, on which my father insisted.

<p class="has-text-align-justify" value="<amp-fit-text layout="fixed-height" min-font-size="6" max-font-size="72" height="80">"Where the mind is without fear," wrote Tagore, "and the head is held high, where knowledge is free." A poem that had impacted me deeply as a child. Even then I had known that though the poem was directed towards the country as a whole, it applied to each individual; for what else is a country made up of, if not its citizens. "Where the clear stream of reason has not lost it's way into the dreary desert sands of dead habit," continues Tagore. Into that heaven of freedom I would wish to be awakened as a young adolescent. Needless to say that did not bode well for any adult in my vicinity, be it teacher or parent who would ask me to follow obediently what was asked of me and what they deemed was the best for my development. Everything would have to pass this self study. That's not to say I have not indulged in many spontaneous actions and learnt insightful lessons from all of them some pleasurable some not-so, all contributing to the formation of my ego as it were. “Where the mind is without fear,” wrote Tagore, “and the head is held high, where knowledge is free.” A poem that had impacted me deeply as a child. Even then I had known that though the poem was directed towards the country as a whole, it applied to each individual; for what else is a country made up of, if not its citizens. “Where the clear stream of reason has not lost it’s way into the dreary desert sands of dead habit,” continues Tagore. Into that heaven of freedom I would wish to be awakened as a young adolescent. Needless to say that did not bode well for any adult in my vicinity, be it teacher or parent who would ask me to follow obediently what was asked of me and what they deemed was the best for my development. Everything would have to pass this self study. That’s not to say I have not indulged in many spontaneous actions and learnt insightful lessons from all of them some pleasurable some not-so, all contributing to the formation of my ego as it were.

<p class="has-text-align-justify" value="<amp-fit-text layout="fixed-height" min-font-size="6" max-font-size="72" height="80">It would be correct to say, hence, that I had expended a sizable amount of my years in the attempt of developing intellectual skills which it would in later life not be wrong to call a well developed sense of the self, popularly labelled ego by philosophers and pundits. Said acquired skills also used to demolish without prejudice, perceptions that did not resonate with my own realisations. As usual, the views expressed here are mine alone, arrived at after much pondering in my free time and anyone who disagrees with them I accord a more than cordial shake of the hand.It would be correct to say, hence, that I had expended a sizable amount of my years in the attempt of developing intellectual skills which it would in later life not be wrong to call a well developed sense of the self, popularly labelled ego by philosophers and pundits. Said acquired skills also used to demolish without prejudice, perceptions that did not resonate with my own realisations. As usual, the views expressed here are mine alone, arrived at after much pondering in my free time and anyone who disagrees with them I accord a more than cordial shake of the hand.

A Not so Gentle Coaxing

New age yoga studios quickly follow a catchy phrase without due diligence.

<p class="has-text-align-justify" value="<amp-fit-text layout="fixed-height" min-font-size="6" max-font-size="72" height="80">First expressed in eastern philosophies, it is a common statement today used by priests, clergymen, gurus and pundits to ask the congregation to leave the ego outside with the shoes. This apparently to keep their flock humble and not fall a prey to pride. The idea mooted is that the ego is an obstacle on the path towards the Lord God.First expressed in eastern philosophies, it is a common statement today used by priests, clergymen, gurus and pundits to ask the congregation to leave the ego outside with the shoes. This apparently to keep their flock humble and not fall a prey to pride. The idea mooted is that the ego is an obstacle on the path towards the Lord God.

<p class="has-text-align-justify" value="<amp-fit-text layout="fixed-height" min-font-size="6" max-font-size="72" height="80">This statement has always irked me and if asked to leave my mind or ego outside with my shoes while attending watering holes of any hue, it immediately makes me more attentive and a bit suspicious. It is meant to be a cute statement meaning don't be argumentative but I find it an assault on a discerning mind. This statement has always irked me and if asked to leave my mind or ego outside with my shoes while attending watering holes of any hue, it immediately makes me more attentive and a bit suspicious. It is meant to be a cute statement meaning don’t be argumentative but I find it an assault on a discerning mind.

<p class="has-text-align-justify" value="<amp-fit-text layout="fixed-height" min-font-size="6" max-font-size="72" height="80">The ego of the person inside trying to override the ego of the person entering! Not so Om Shanti after all!!The ego of the person inside trying to override the ego of the person entering! Not so Om Shanti after all!!

Ego, A Brief Summarisation

<p class="has-text-align-justify" value="<amp-fit-text layout="fixed-height" min-font-size="6" max-font-size="72" height="80">Simply stated, ego in Latin stands for I. Any person using this I word excessively is perceived as an egoist. For me, though this was too simplistic a definition of the ego. I craved for a more detailed understanding of ego as identity, as an understanding of the self and a tool for gathering knowledge and wisdom. Simply stated, ego in Latin stands for I. Any person using this I word excessively is perceived as an egoist. For me, though this was too simplistic a definition of the ego. I craved for a more detailed understanding of ego as identity, as an understanding of the self and a tool for gathering knowledge and wisdom.

<p class="has-text-align-justify" value="<amp-fit-text layout="fixed-height" min-font-size="6" max-font-size="72" height="80">A throwback to college where being a student of philosophy, I had studied Immanuel Kant's Critique of Pure Reason and his theory of <em>a priori</em> and <em>a posteriori.</em> Putting it simply and keeping it light, they are the two methodology of gathering knowledge by an individual mind and goes to form the substance of the ego. <em>A priori</em> the first based on deduction and reason is independent of experience and the second <em>a posterio</em>r<em>i</em> is empirical and based on subjective experience. Most western philosophers give precedence to information and knowledge gathered through the former <em>a priori</em> as it's, according to them, a more scientific approach, an objective study which determines that a particular formula when applied would in every instant bring the same result. The latter path of <em>a posteriori </em>is empirical and based on information gathered from subjective experience, a method which for obvious reasons, is very difficult to compute. The latter is usually debunked by those referred to popularly as 'intellectuals'. But I have found both work in different ways to help the individual mind gather information.A throwback to college where being a student of philosophy, I had studied Immanuel Kant’s Critique of Pure Reason and his theory of a priori and a posteriori. Putting it simply and keeping it light, they are the two methodology of gathering knowledge by an individual mind and goes to form the substance of the ego. A priori the first based on deduction and reason is independent of experience and the second a posteriori is empirical and based on subjective experience. Most western philosophers give precedence to information and knowledge gathered through the former a priori as it’s, according to them, a more scientific approach, an objective study which determines that a particular formula when applied would in every instant bring the same result. The latter path of a posteriori is empirical and based on information gathered from subjective experience, a method which for obvious reasons, is very difficult to compute. The latter is usually debunked by those referred to popularly as ‘intellectuals’. But I have found both work in different ways to help the individual mind gather information.

<p class="has-text-align-justify" value="<amp-fit-text layout="fixed-height" min-font-size="6" max-font-size="72" height="80">In the Sanatan philosophy the sanskrit term used is <em>Ahankar</em>. <em>Ahankar</em> which does not just mean the 'I' but the 'I maker'. The first sign of ego is developed by the infant at the moment of birth. My Satguru <a href="http://www.siddhanath.org/">Yogiraj Siddhanath</a>, explains how when the baby emerges from the womb of the mother the heresy of separateness occurs and the soul forgetting it is divine starts identifying with the body. The first I of identifying with the external form grows roots.In the Sanatan philosophy the sanskrit term used is Ahankar. Ahankar which does not just mean the ‘I’ but the ‘I maker’. The first sign of ego is developed by the infant at the moment of birth. My Satguru Yogiraj Siddhanath, explains how when the baby emerges from the womb of the mother the heresy of separateness occurs and the soul forgetting it is divine starts identifying with the body. The first I of identifying with the external form grows roots.

<p class="has-text-align-justify" value="<amp-fit-text layout="fixed-height" min-font-size="6" max-font-size="72" height="80">According to my understanding the identity of Aham or self strengthens as the baby grows by identifying with traits of its gender, family status and name. This sense of the self deepens further as the manas- the mind, and intellect- buddhi becomes more consolidated with social conditioning and upbringing and the very personal experiences in that souls journey. The I then refers to itself as the sum total of all 5 koshas, the <em>panchakosha</em> – the body of flesh, the body of breath, the body of mind and emotion, the body of intellect and the body of intuition. How this I collects information, knowledge and wisdom depends on how the I perceives the world through the 5 senses, <em>panchendriyas</em>. Further the substance of the I is textured by the play of the three gunas, the clarity or otherwise of the vivek buddhi. According to my understanding the identity of Aham or self strengthens as the baby grows by identifying with traits of its gender, family status and name. This sense of the self deepens further as the manas- the mind, and intellect- buddhi becomes more consolidated with social conditioning and upbringing and the very personal experiences in that souls journey. The I then refers to itself as the sum total of all 5 koshas, the panchakosha – the body of flesh, the body of breath, the body of mind and emotion, the body of intellect and the body of intuition. How this I collects information, knowledge and wisdom depends on how the I perceives the world through the 5 senses, panchendriyas. Further the substance of the I is textured by the play of the three gunas, the clarity or otherwise of the vivek buddhi.

भूमिरापोऽनलो वायु: खं मनो बुद्धिरेव च ।अहङ्कार इतीयं मे भिन्ना प्रकृतिरष्टधा ॥ ४ ॥

Interestingly Krishna in the Bhagavad Geeta has pointed out how the earth, water, fire, air, ether, mind, buddhi (intellect) and ahankar form the eight grosser manifestations of the energies of the descending Purusha– pure consciousness. All serious practitioners of yog sadhana know that the body consists of all these elements and together they form the grosser I. For clarification Purusha, in my understanding, has no ‘masculine’ connotation here. More on this in my next blog.

<p class="has-text-align-justify" value="<amp-fit-text layout="fixed-height" min-font-size="6" max-font-size="72" height="80">This is a vast topic by itself and my reason for touching upon it here is only to lightly stroke on the nuances of what is meant by an ego.This is a vast topic by itself and my reason for touching upon it here is only to lightly stroke on the nuances of what is meant by an ego.

Case in favour of not leaving the ego out

Let me begin by saying that according to me, those who have an Ahankar, an ego will not be successful in leaving it behind. And those who can leave it behind need not enter at all, for after all they without Ahankar become -Nirankar- निरङ्कार्, without form, formless.

  1. योगश्चित्तवृत्तिनिरोधः

Patanjali in his treatise of YogSutras says yog (union) is calming the vagaries of the fluctuating mind. The mind, the ego is the sense of lower self, which is transformed to the realisation of the Universal Self. The calming of the fluctuations and turbulence of the mind is the basis of yog sadhana. If you have already achieved it you need not enter at all, if you haven’t, leaving it behind what will you transform? It is after all the ego that has to pass through the crucible of fire to purify itself into Atman, then Paramatman.

2. स्वाध्याय

One of the tenets of niyam is swadhyay, self study; turning the lens inward in order to observe and experience the transformation of the chitta and the manas all a part of what forms the ego. Having left the mind and ego self outside, what is there to study.

<p class="has-text-align-justify" value="<amp-fit-text layout="fixed-height" min-font-size="6" max-font-size="72" height="80">3. शरीरे संहारः कलानाम्3. शरीरे संहारः कलानाम्

“The destroyer is within the body,” read the Shiva Sutra discovered by Vasugupta on a boulder in the territory of Rishi Kashyap around the 9th century CE. The movement of discovery is inwards and outwards. As the seeker takes the first step into the room the spirit within recognising that effort inwards is filled with joy and moves to embrace and reward this endeavour by a soul in returning to its parent source and the ego dropping all its beauty and ugliness regains its natural form of splendour.

4. Transformation

<p class="has-text-align-justify" value="<amp-fit-text layout="fixed-height" min-font-size="6" max-font-size="72" height="80">"Yog is an inner ascent, through ever-more refined and ever-more expanded spheres of consciousness to get to the Godessence which lies at the core of one’s own being,” says Himalayan <em>Satguru Yogiraj Siddhanath.</em>“Yog is an inner ascent, through ever-more refined and ever-more expanded spheres of consciousness to get to the Godessence which lies at the core of one’s own being,” says Himalayan Satguru Yogiraj Siddhanath.

<p class="has-text-align-justify" value="<amp-fit-text layout="fixed-height" min-font-size="6" max-font-size="72" height="80">As a practitioner of yog sadhana for this and many lives, I am palpably aware of the movement of my consciousness from grosser to more subtler aspects of my being. It's a transformation from the grosser emotions and passion to the subtler love and light which is the purpose of the practice for many. The journey of the transformation itself is what gives joy. It is to learn this transformation that we enter any room and if asked to leave the ego outside it will defeat the purpose of the sadhana, we may as well just be mindlessly anywhere.As a practitioner of yog sadhana for this and many lives, I am palpably aware of the movement of my consciousness from grosser to more subtler aspects of my being. It’s a transformation from the grosser emotions and passion to the subtler love and light which is the purpose of the practice for many. The journey of the transformation itself is what gives joy. It is to learn this transformation that we enter any room and if asked to leave the ego outside it will defeat the purpose of the sadhana, we may as well just be mindlessly anywhere.

Finally, complete leaving of the Ego is when you realise you were never the Ego nor any of its manifestations. Adi Shankaracharya in his NirvanShatakam explains.

निर्वाणषटकम्

मनोबुद्ध्यहङ्कार चित्तानि नाहं, न च श्रोत्रजिह्वे न च घ्राणनेत्रे ।
न च व्योम भूमिर्न तेजो न वायुः, चिदानन्दरूपः शिवोऽहम् शिवोऽहम् ॥१॥

I am not the mind, intelligence, ego or conscience
Neither am I the sense of hearing, taste, smell or sight
I am not the sky, earth, fire or air
Eternal Bliss attribute of Shiva I am, Shiva I am

<p class="has-text-align-justify" value="<amp-fit-text layout="fixed-height" min-font-size="6" max-font-size="72" height="80">Earlier Krishna explained the descent of <em>purusha</em>- pure consciousness into ego and here Shankaracharya explains the ascent of ego into <em>purusha</em>- pure consciousness. Still a vestige of I<em> aham </em>evident in the last line and a degree of separation as the attribute <em>rupa</em> of eternal bliss, in my understanding if the last coat of ego had dissolved in Shankaracharya, there would have been no <em>NirvanShatakam</em>. Earlier Krishna explained the descent of purusha– pure consciousness into ego and here Shankaracharya explains the ascent of ego into purusha– pure consciousness. Still a vestige of I aham evident in the last line and a degree of separation as the attribute rupa of eternal bliss, in my understanding if the last coat of ego had dissolved in Shankaracharya, there would have been no NirvanShatakam.

Note: Most of my writing comes from casual conversations around a cuppa or a random sentence left floating or observing a rather repetitive spiritual anecdote. There are many blogs that are already arising from this one. If you enjoyed reading and would like me to ramble on like this more. Leave a comment with your own bubbles of thought and we will thus have a conversation. And yes sure bring in your ego, Egos welcome!!


Leave a comment

Is Kriya Yog the best path for a seeker?


As a sadhak living the way of the kriya breath and sharing this with others for over 20 years in this life, I am often asked this question in my teaching tours – Is kriya yoga the best and only path? My answer to this question is always the same…Yes it is, for me! Every sadhak has to determine for themselves the path most suited for them.

To clarify, when I speak of Kriya Yoga it is specifically referring to the Kriya Yoga of the lineage of Mahavatar Babaji, with a very unique, codified and specific technique for speedy spiritual evolution and self realisation of the human soul.

Masters come from time to time to enliven and initiate sincere seekers into this evolutionary practice. Yogiraj Siddhanath is one such master who initiated me into this practice in 1998 and authorised me as a teacher to share it with others in 1999. Some other masters of this lineage who preceded him are Lahiri Mahasaya, the foremost to share this technique with householder practitioners, Sri Yukteswar Giri and Paramahamsa Yogananda who made this practice a household name in the east and west with his book Autobiography of a Yogi. All of the above have had their personal experiences and darshan of the Mahavatar, as has my Satguru, who writes about this in his book Babaji, the Lightning Standing Still. In this book he has revealed Babaji to be none other than Gorakhnath a spark of the Divine Cosmic phenomenon of Shiva.

The 3 Margs and the 4 Yogas

The Spiritual path is broadly divided into the Karma, the Bhakti, and the Gnyana marg as the three paths for seekers to walk on as per their predominant individual nature. For me the path of Kriya Yoga includes all three, the path of devotion, the path of right action and the path of realised knowingness. This makes it a universal practice for anyone to explore for final salvation.

The four paths of yog or union to realise moksh– enlightenment are the Bhakti, Karma, Gnyana and the Raja Yoga. Once again for me, Kriya Yoga is inclusive of all four yoga. Kriya Yoga is a kingly offering of the eight fold path of the Patanjali yoga sutra, the Raja Yoga. In the practice of Kriya Yoga is included the means to inculcate the qualities of love and devotion -Bhakti, of executing the right action -Karma and unblemished gnosis- Gnyana. In Kriya Yog all four flower majestically leading the individual spirit of the practitioner to merge into the divine spirit effortlessly.

Kriya Yoga the spiritual expressway

Humorously, to me spirituality and pop yoga today often feels like the Indian traffic, there’s a lot of noise and honking, blowing the trumpet of their own schools of thought; jostling for space by ‘gurus’ of all hues; unexpected roadblocks on the path set up by fear of sharing authentic information; bullying by bigger vehicles read mightier well heeled organisations; and the fear of meandering into narrower and narrower bylanes of spiritually arid and bigoted mindsets with no possibilities of u-turns; add to this a complete disregard for traffic lights signalling no discipline and you get the picture of the chaos. Of course some would love to immerse in this scenario and may even benefit from it to glean some nugget of spiritual spark. My hats off to them and the best of wishes.

But for others bent on a more direct path discovering the practice of authentic yog sadhana comes as a relief and a means to rise above this melee onto a highway for a smoother less hindered flow. The practice is relatively individual and requires less props.

Now taking this to another level imagine being suddenly released from all restraints of traffic and moving into a fast lane bullet expressway with extremely few regulations, what a relief that would be for some! For me the practice of Kriya Yoga is that super expressway, the autobahn of spiritual path, where ensconced alone in my body temple I am free to move unhindered, propelled by the technique and grace of my satguru towards the goal of self-realisation. Never a fan of intellectual dissemination minus spiritual experience I am happy to stay well above the traffic snarl of the textually intelligent.

Why I practice Kriya Yoga

(The following is an excerpt from my book One Master one disciple- peeling of an onion, Chapter 10, Kriya Yoga The Antidote)

The essential appeal

There are some core fundamentals of Kriya Yoga that attract me personally and which as a teacher helps me to guide students into a practice that is so universal.

One, the simplicity of the initiation took my breath away at my first introduction to this practice by Gurunath. Coming from a brahminical background where much ado is made of secretly giving the gayatri at the overlong upanayanam ceremony, mind you only to the boys, I found the simple introduction by the master into such a powerful path refreshing. Kriya yoga does not discriminate; it’s given freely to all who want to invest their time in pursuing this yogic path. This simplicity in fact flows into all the other aspects that follow.

Two, I see Kriya Yoga as an inner discipline where the yogi practitioner contained in the physical body temple realises themselves to be the immaculate spark of divinity. External forms of worship are redundant and Kriya Yoga does not demand any external ritual to be effective. Practicing the technique is most supreme and keeps the disciple truly attuned with the master.

Three, Kriya Yoga stands alone needing no other supportive practice to take the disciple to the highest states of enlightenment.

Four, the energy of Kriya Yoga is love, its practice supports ones becoming love and radiating love. Gurunath leads us into this state by connecting us with our inner fountainhead of love. The advanced seeker knows the quality of this love is not conditional, regional or limited and transcends human frailties.

Five, by dedicated sadhana, the disciples increase their gravity and move gracefully through life. As the disciple becomes more constant life under any circumstances becomes more full of ease for them. Ishwar pranidhan the surrender to the guru comes naturally to them. Mind you this surrender is not the mindless abject surrender of the piteous rather a surrender in full realisation.

Six, by steadfastness in practice and utter connection with the master the disciple becomes self-reliant and connects with the core of their inner knowingness as Gurunath calls it. The external physical master introduces the disciple to their inner essential master. This is an advanced stage that I know comes to all disciples eventually. As disciples we just need to keep the connection with the satguru as this process can go on for a while as layers upon layers of ignorance are peeled away, hence the peeling of an onion.”

End of quote.


Leave a comment

From Yog to Yoga

From yog on rustic cotton mats laid out on an earthen floor under a hay roof to Yoga in swanky über temperature controlled yoga studios with branded accessories, this practice has leapt to a different level altogether. The multi billion-dollar yoga industry today is a far cry from the simple akahada gurus who would sweep the floor and lay out the mats to make the space ready for the students and accept calmly what now seems a paltry remuneration for the teaching. A routine and disciplined study, it involved much more learning than developing a beach ready body or a flawless facade.

Yoga today has taken on many hues and those who develop a particular style of Yoga hugely define its practice today. A 200-hour teachers training gets a certificate and a traditional Hindu name for a practice that took yogis lifetimes to even make progress. Patanjali and his yoga sutras, each of which can be pondered upon for months is taught in five easy lessons.

Though elated at the status this practice has achieved in the world today one has to wonder whether somewhere along the way a very scientific and well documented practice to realise the Self has been diminished to a glamour quotient for movie stars and studios.

For many born in India in the 50’s and 60’s and earlier, yog sadhana was a way of life, learnt often from watching our parents. Formal training sometimes started in school and study of the first two tenets of yama and niyama by example from adults around us.

The five Yamas are, Satya (truthfulness), Ahimsa (non-violence), Asteya (honesty), Brahmacharya (popularly sexual restraint) and Aparigraha (non hoarding).

The five Niyamas are, Shaucha (personal hygiene), Santosha (contentment), Tapa (austerity) Swadhyaya (self study) and Ishwar Pranidhan (surrender to divine will).

Yoga instructions today often either ignore or gloss over the yamas and niyamas as do’s and don’ts. Rather they may even be subverted in the race to achieve ‘success’ in this field. To build a brand, to lease out franchises, to woo students, to manufacture products, to become popular, to weed out competition, yoga practitioners and teachers may and often do trample upon many of these tenets with impunity.

These two tenets however become a natural way of being for the sincere practitioner of yog sadhana, herein lies the beauty of yoga to transform the sincere practitioner despite poor instructions from unqualified yoga teachers.

Yoga today popularly refers to the practice of asanas and to some extent pranayama. Little surprise as most often the step towards yoga is taken either for reasons relating to physical health and or mental stress both of which are taken care of by the practice of asanas and pranayama. Here ends the journey of many who venture into yoga as a practice today.

It’s a disservice to yog though to divest it of its purpose that of uniting the individual spirit with the universal spirit. In their passion to keep out the mystical or the unexplainable yog has been stripped of its real purpose. It’s like giving few ingredients of an exotic dish and keeping away the others. The dish will neither be cooked nor eaten. This may also be because the teachers are restricted by their own progress on this path, which stopped at perfecting the asanas.  

The fifth stage of yog sadhana pratyahar is the withdrawal of sense organs from sense objects. But for many modern practitioners of yoga there is a feeling of discomfort when the word detachment is mentioned. The attitude is of not being ready to give up sensory pleasures yet; they don’t want to venture that far. Systematic practice of yoga stills and reduces the clinginess of the mind to external stimuli, freeing the soul to experience its own divine nature. So once again regular practice of pranayama will get the practitioner to this very exhilarating state sooner or later.

Many practices of Dharana, the art of concentration the sixth stage of yoga is taught by experts, especially to sportspersons and high achievers. These practices taken from yoga texts are separated from the other steps that lead to it. The concentration then becomes a wish to succeed in one’s field rather than a one pointed attention to realise ones innermost core of bliss.

Dhyan and Samadhi being in the purview of a true master, a satguru often is not realised easily by many on this path.

There’s a reason for this very elaborate and codified practice of yoga laid down by Patanjali. The steps followed systematically lead you without fail to the state of self-realisation, no matter what your race, colour, gender or caste is, whether you are an atheist or a believer. Yoga does not discriminate; the sincere is rewarded with results.

Yoga is self-regulatory and an inward path. It involves a bond between the teacher and the taught that is based on an ethical behaviour where they alone judge and witness their motives. The redeeming fact is that since every one who practices any of the eight steps of yoga is evolving along this path, eventually the chitta and the vrittis -fluctuations of the mind will be overcome and Patanjali’s Sutras will bear fruit for that yogi.

This article was first published in the The Pioneer in December 2018.

http://www.pioneeredge.in/the-journey-from-yog-to-yoga/


Leave a comment

Is yoga Hindu ?

This blog was inspired by an online post on social media by a western yoga teacher who was postulating how yoga was not religious and could be practiced by anyone from any other faith whilst adhering to their own religion without fear of conversion.

Does practicing yoga make one a Hindu? As a yog teacher who teaches westerners I come across this oft asked query to which I have a counter question. Do they think of Hinduism as a religion and Hindus as a class of people practicing a set discipline? My reply is based upon their response to this question.

If Hindusim is a religion, yog cannot be divested from it just because people from ‘other’ religions want to practice and reap the benefits of this time tested ancient technique without getting out of the comfort zone of their belief sysytem. They have to understand that yog is part of a great spiritual philosophy now known as Hinduism. It is a culmination of rigourous self-study, self-imposed austerities, deep reflection on the nature of the self and is based on a solid foundation of sustained practice of thousands of years.

Many who are called Hindus today believe the ‘ism’ and the term Hindu was imposed upon them by the Greeks, Mughal and Colonial marauders to put them in a box they could comprehend, as comprehending the diversity of this land they overcame with brute force was impossible for their small limited minds. The present day hindus themselves believe their roots are deep in the Sanatana Dharma philosophy, an eternal way of life that evolved/is evolving, is alive and is the result of extensive study, introspection and realisation into the nature of humankind and their relation to the divine, with many paths and movements branching out from this study, of which Yoga is one. There was never a need to give this a limiting lable of an ism. This system accepts even atheism as a philosophy and they are free to adopt, refute and challenge belief systems of scholars.

This is proof of an enlightened spiritual tradition not an excuse for marketing Yoga as not a religion and giving examples of atheists practicing yoga to draw in students.

Therefore to understand that yog is not a religion you have to yourself be realised to that extent. To frivolously mouth yoga is not a religion and that one can continue being a christian or muslim or jew while practicing yog is insulting the universality of yoga and in extension the religion now called hinduism of which its a part.

So yes if you think Hinduism is a religion then Yoga is hindu. But if you have broken the shackles of religion in all its limitations then not only yoga but all the paths that have come out of this deep reflective philosophy is not religion but an invitation to explore and realise.

“The pilgrim, the path and the goal become one- LOVE,” says Yogiraj Siddhanath a realised Kriya Master, a foremost example of how versatile and evolving Sanatana Dharma is.