Disruption, destruction, disintegration and ultimately getting dissolved is the nature of everything born in this world. Everything is degrading or changing. In short, we may say that change is the only unchangeable reality of this world.
Similarly, the recommended places for performing Yoga as instructed in the Yog sutras for the practicing yogis have undergone major changes and most of the places are not suitable for Yoga. The mountains where yogis are instructed to meditate have become a sporting ground. The forests where transcendentalists used to experience Brahman in silence, have become places of mafia and mountain sports activities. Many places of spiritual and educational importance which were meant for life transformation have become merely place of tourism.
If these are the conditions of the places where yoga was favorably practiced as recommended in Gita and yoga sutras, then one can imagine the degradation of the condition of cities and the struggles of residents of the these cities who have some inclination to practice yoga? Human restlessness is at its peak and the places favorable for meditation are scarcely available. The cities which never sleep used to be a simple statement to describe the liveliness of the residents, but now days it is the sad reality where people actually can’t sleep. So is it possible to practice yoga sutras in the midst of constant dazzle of modern cities?
Yes, Indeed, An expert teacher who has the inkling of the past, experience of the present and the vision of the future has the ability to train the students to practice the principles of yoga sutras in the any situation without compromising the end result
Even though there are countless limitations but one of the advantage of this modern age is the facility of interacting with great teachers and availability of huge source of knowledge which helps in adjusting one's Yoga practices and achieving steady progress on this path. Therefore, Sri Krishna recommends Arjuna to practice karma yoga instead of merely performing the yogic meditation. The modern lifestyle is very hectic but If someone is able to tweak one's daily schedule, it is possible to include time for little meditation, few minutes of pranayama, little time for gaining knowledge and finally the time for mantra meditation with devotional heart.
Taking small steps towards achieving the steady practice of Sadhana is one of the easy way. Following this way the practitioner starts experiencing success in every step towards achieving steady sadhana, and he becomes more hopeful and determined to make further advancement. Sometimes It is observed that the enthusiastic people get emotional and targets bigger goal in the first step itself without assessing their own capabilities. This emotional approach is sure to fail which gives rise to the feeling that they are not made for such practices. But advancing step by step and experiencing small success is one of the best way to eventually increase one's practice and achieve end result. Therefore, city dwellers may desire for greater results but advancing in smaller steps in the path of Yoga practice in the beginning is recommended so that there is feeling of achievement in every small step.
It is therefore important for the practicing Yogi to learn to adjust the Yog sutras as per the circumstances without compromising the principles to experience everything prescribed in the Gita and Yog sutras.
It is also recommended to take small steps towards following the Yama and Niyama by slowing down on learning aspects to regulate life. To experience the rise of little yogi inside, one can start by trying to avoid intoxication one's in a week and gradually increase the level of restrain. At times may try avoiding meat for few days so that they can feel the power of goodness. Or to further the experience, one can actively participate in mantra meditation and join Kirtanprograms. One can also try affection devoid of carnal pleasure on a regular basis. In this way, with constant practice and small detachment the yogi in the city can rise as high as the city skyscraper symbolically.
Surya Namaskara is one of the most important asana or pre asanas in Yoga Practice. Worshiping or offering pranams to sun god gives nice feelings and it also has its own deep history, spread all over the world. The Abrahamic faiths labeled the sun worship as Pagan, but the fascination with Sun was a common phenomenon throughout the history of civilizations. We find in all the civilizations that the worship of Sun God was prominent and there was no civilization which did not worship Sun God. Though the process of worship was not the same but all of these diverse civilizations commonly accepted the sun as the ruler, the sacred king, of both upper and lower worlds. In some civilizations the process of Sun worship was detailed and systematic and for some it was done using solar motifs.
In India Many kings have ruled as the descendant of Sun God. The Ramayana and Mahabharata talk about the two major clans and their descendants. Ramayana chronicles the life of Sri Rama who came from Surya vamsa (clan of Sun God) and Mahabharata details the life of Sri Krishna who came from Chandra vamsa (Moon Dynasty).
The worship of Sun God is also mentioned in the history of ancient Egyptian civilization, where Sun god was called, “Re”. It talks with regards to Sun's movement over the heavenly ocean, where Sun starts his journey as young god Kheper, then in the afternoon he is full-grown sun, “Re”, and becomes Atum in the evening.
Before the advent of Christianity, all the rituals of the ancient Mexican and Peruvian systems had important place for Sun. Their rulers were considered as incarnation of Sun God. The Japanese too worshiped goddess “Amaterasu” who was connected to Sun God.
The most famous recent example of solar cult is the Sun dance of the North America which was officially banned in America in early nineteenth century.
In Indian culture, the Sun god or Surya was worshiped in a well-defined and systematic manner and it is important to understand what does Surya stand for and what is its role in our nourishment. “Surya”, means the one who travels, the one who creates and the one who inspires. Surya also means the indwelling lord. Therefore, the followers of yogic path spent three times a day in worshiping the lord who is indwelling person in Sun, such worship is called as Sandhya vandana.
One of the reasons the followers of Sanatana dharma worship Sun God because Sun rays in the morning makes the world active and alert after the apparently inert dark night.
Incidentally Sun God also represents the transcendental knowledge. In Gita Sri Krishna says to Arjuna that originally the knowledge of Gita was taught to Sun God and eventually he taught it to Manu. Hanuman, the great devotee of Sri Rama also received the knowledge from Sun God.
Therefore, It is observed that the intelligent class of people in India never fails to worship Sun God through proper process. It is believed that the Sun is god and getting connected to his energy gives rise to higher levels of intelligence. Certainly some scientific research should be carried out by modern scientists in this regard.
During the Surya Namaskara, the Yogis chant the various names of Surya and every name has its specific meaning which denotes a particular function. Some of the names of Surya and their functions are;
In this way each name of Surya denotes some aspect of his activities during different time of the day. The practicing Yogi begins his day and his asana by offering his respect to that Sun God who reminds him the presence of the supreme. Therefore, in the Gita, it is that said the Sun god is the eye of the Supreme Brhaman. Sun is the witness to all of our activities like an eternal CCTV camera which cannot be tampered by anyone and remains constant active witness.
Let us make our asana be an act of gratitude and devotion to develop healthy body, healthy mind and a grateful heart
If one cares for the whole picture, the little details can be adjusted to blend with the whole, but if one loses sight of the whole picture, little things assume all-importance and cause strife. – Radhanath Swami
Yoga means to bring together, to harmonize, to unite. It’s highest expression is the union of the individual soul with the Supreme Soul God. Union is to become one in love. Unconditional and unmotivated love for God brings about true Yoga.
From a spiritual standpoint, marriage is something more than man and woman living together; it brings together two souls on a much higher level. The husband sees the wife as God’s beloved daughter entrusted by Him to his care. God will appreciate the husband based on how responsibly and protectively he treats the wife, how he respects and honors her as God’s gift. The wife looks upon the husband as God’s child entrusted to her care. God will appreciate her based on how faithful, loving, and caring she is. When this is the relationship’s mood, rapid spiritual progress follows.
As partners in life, the sacred principle is to help each other to become pure. The higher principle is to help each other love God, to help each other become instruments of God’s love for the world. If marriage is to love and protect each other for this divine purpose, then such coming together in marriage is really Yoga. No wonder, Radhanath Swami notes, all different societies traditionally conducted their marriage ceremonies in spiritual places to consecrate the partnership in the service of God.
Anything great is difficult, cheap things come easy. Cheap relationships are easy, but they break in difficult times. Strong, deep, and growing relationships are found on and supported by higher principles. The mind and senses are flickering. Relationships based on their ever changing demands are superficial and short of substance. But by focusing on the divine principles that have brought them together, the spouses can maturely deal with the unavoidable disagreements that arise in any close relationship by harmonizing everything with the higher principles.
Most marital problems germinate from something insignificant and unimportant. If one doesn’t focus on higher principles, unimportant things get importance. If one cares for the whole picture, the little details can be adjusted to blend with the whole, but if one loses sight of the whole picture, little things assume all-importance and cause strife.
The diamond is but a piece of coal that has transformed from crude blackness to multifaceted brilliance under millions of years of high pressure, remarks Radhanath Swami. Similarly, (i) the good and bad times spent together remaining faithful to each other and (ii) negotiating the pressures of married life for the sake of higher principles, are meant to transform the spouses into brilliant gems radiating love of God. This essential principle defines the Yoga of Marriage.
One of the most powerful and unparalleled contributions of Sri Krishna to this world is the Bhagavad Gita. The Gita’s distinction amongst various doctrines and schools of thought can be attributed to its fundamental purpose of guiding with the notion of actions and their reactions, as opposed to right or wrong. Herein, we explore this concept and a few additional significant traits of this deep reservoir of knowledge that distinguishes it from other literature.
Firstly, the Bhagavad Gita is the only wisdom that was imparted or discussed in a battlefield; most books, especially those presenting some spirituality or existential philosophy, are spoken or written in ashramas, maths, temples or holy places.
Additionally, while nearly all scriptures usher towards the renunciation of actions and emphasize a focus on a world beyond this world, Sri Krishna guides Arjuna to harmonize between this world and the next. He urges Arjuna to focus on this world in such a way that the other world is naturally taken care of when he says, “Tasmad Sarveshu kaleshu mam anusmara yuddacha (think of me and perform your duty of fighting on behalf of Dharma)”. Sri Krishna teaches Arjuna to be a sage within and king without. In essence, Sri Krishna impresses the need to cater towards the body and senses as long as they exist. However, one should act in such a way that despite appearing as the doer externally, one is well established as an observer internally. This principle of Nishkama Karma Yoga is exceptional to the Gita; a multitude of different ideologies command either action with passion, or inaction based on an overemphasize on the fleeting nature of this material creation. Many philosophers take extreme stands of either pure spiritualism, or straight materialism.
Another unique feature of the Gita is an in depth discussion of the three Gunas. Everyone and everything in this world is under the influence of the three modes, namely Sattva, or substance; Raja, which is the power to act for results; and Tama, or darkness that involves minimal action in the present, and blatant disregard for tomorrow or even the next hour.
Moreover, Sri Krishna does not instruct on ideas of what is right or wrong; His teachings are about actions and their consequences. A myriad of popular beliefs are either extremely liberal, where one is allowed carte blanche without any considerations of responsibilities and consequences, or they are rigid doctrines that are violently imposed by individuals who judge the right and wrong of everyone based on the limited lens of a particular surrounding. Both extremes have devastating social consequences, the liberals promote recklessness and the conservative instill fear and mental slavery where any independent thinking is crushed by a destructive concept of eternal damnation to hell as supported by their “law books”. In contrast, the Gita is honorably courageous in providing the options for individuals to make choices insync with a healthy balance between their personal and universal natures. Hence, at the end of the Gita, Sri Krishna bravely gives Arjuna the complete freedom to decide on his available options; the Gita is not a law book, but a book of thinking and logically driven Realities
A green economy is described as one that results in improved human well-being and social equity, while significantly reducing environmental risks and ecological scarcities. The fallacy of consumerism is coming to light in a blatantly painful way. The recent economic meltdowns and the astronomical price rise are making people all over the world rethink the current models of development.
The fundamental flaw lies in the way we approach our planet. We have just one planet to live in and how well we utilize its resources will define the state of our existence on this planet. More and more nations today are adopting this concept of 'green economy' by reducing their carbon emissions and improving their resource efficiency. But is that really enough?
The Vedas present a holistic solution to this problem and it begins in redefining the conception of earth. It describes our planet not as a glob of matter floating in the unlimited space, but as a sentient entity whose personification is Bhoomi Devi. The Vedas proclaim that our attitude while accepting the various natural resources must be that of gratitude and respect. Then Bhoomi would respond in abundance like a loving mother eager to see her child grow. Unfortunately the modern attitude of exploitation and greed has only shown us her face of fury in the form of tsunamis, earthquakes, hurricanes and forest fires.
Skeptics may find this concept to be anthropomorphic, but the conception of treating earth as a mother or as a deity is commonly observed in many world cultures. Earth has been worshipped by many names such as Bhoomi, Gaia, etc., all proving that there is a far deeper understanding beyond our limited perception and which holds the key to green living. Our ancestors in the past knew it and it enabled them to live peacefully for centuries.
However the modern era, especially post industrial revolution, has only been an era of short lived comforts with long term repercussions. The solutions we have created in the recent past have only resulted in creating bigger problems for future. And the so called advancement has only been "fire-fighting" at best and is far from being the ultimate solution for human well-being. It’s high time we look back into the past at the ways of the wise and cultivate this culture of respect for Mother Earth. That alone will ensure the success of all the green initiatives we take. So this World Environment Day lets be a part of the planet that cares for Mother Earth. Let's witness the dawn of a Green Culture. Well, does it include you?
We often neglect a quite important cow produce – manure! Manure or cow dung as called in India, finds its use in various places in traditional Indian culture. Manure is known in many Indian languages as go-var; go meaning cow and var meaning boon. It indicates how much the traditional Indians revered this excrement. Even the sacred texts of India, the vedas, which condemn all forms of excrements as abominable, hail cow dung as all auspicious. So much so that one finds is use in many sacred ceremonies and worship. So what's so special about cow dung?
From a pure utility perspective, cow dung is one of the best forms of natural fertilizer. Application of cow dung for soil enrichment is an age old agricultural practice which was lost post introduction of chemical fertilizers. With rising demand for chemical free food and growing acceptance of organic farming, cow dung forms a very important link in chemical free farming. Another growing trend is the use of cow dung in producing biogas, a cheap alternative source of energy that can be used as a fuel for cooking or to even produce electricity. Researchers at Hewlett Packard Co.'s HP Labs have found ways to power their data servers using cow manure. So it's not just milk and food, but cows can even help us power our laptops and iPods!
But how about putting some cow manure all over your house? Sounds yucky, well it’s not really so, cow dung plasters are commonly found in many Indian homes. Cow dung, also hailed for its anti-bacterial properties, is the best natural disinfectant. In any typical Indian village it not uncommon to find the entire floor of the house coated with some fresh cow dung paste. Cow dung mixed with lime is also used to coat the walls of cob houses. Recent research findings from independent groups in University of Bristol and Sage college in Troy, NY, show cow dung to be an excellent mood enhancing agent. Cow dung contains a bacteria Mycobacterium vaccae, which activates a group of neurons in the brain that produce serotonin – a neurotransmitter that contributes to feelings of wellbeing and happiness. So the next time you're feeling depressed try walking into a cow barn and get a lungful of the fresh fragrance of cow dung.
A simple way to define sustainability might be the ability of something to maintain itself or preserving resources and energy for long-term. It is about time that we experience a shift in perspective and move from envisioning sustainability only at the economical, technological and environmental level, to also acknowledging the importance of philosophical, psychological, emotional and spiritual plane.
Most of the time we forget that we live in a dual world and the unseen energetic work is always disregarded and ranked second in the top of our daily priorities. Everything is energy and all that comes to be materialized in the physical world has first a strong pattern in the energetic field. In this perspective, our transcendental level of consciousness is the basic field of inner sustainability. We cannot achieve behavioral change without inner transformation as well as our external environment cannot be cleaned unless the inner one is pure.
The number one disease that the world experiences today is depression and this is translated as energetic waste that puts a heavy load in the external reality. The greatest power that we own as human beings is the power of thought and our collective focus has the force to determine the quality of our external surroundings. Everything starts with the individual self. And our personal inner work to create a shift of consciousness and raise our vibration is the first and most important responsibility that each one of us has to contribute to the sustainability of the planet. Increasing our vibration will be directly reflected in our mind and will alter our thoughts, our values and beliefs, will inspire our actions and we will experience life in a different format.
There are so many easy practices to trigger inner transformation, but how can we use them in a sustainable way? We can choose to meditate, do yoga, pray, contemplate nature, or just give ourselves a break during the day to just do nothing and quiet our mind.
Let's explore how inner sustainability can contribute to the external factors of global change.
The first step towards inner transformation is self -awareness of our skills, shortcomings, uniqueness and inner potential. Next comes awareness towards our connection with everything that exists; people, animals, nature, mother earth and the consequences that our actions and behaviors have for the whole existence. The awareness of oneness brings forth a lot of responsibility and compassion and manifests as a natural change coming from within, not forced or imposed from outside. This is called transformation, it is irreversible and the only one that is sustainable for long term.
With awareness we become more sensitive towards the fragility of nature and develop our emotional intelligence quotient. We are emotional beings and the process of socialization forces us to suppress, deny and disown our emotions and they usually leak out in destructive ways towards ourselves and the universe at large. It is an enormous difference between understanding at the intellectual level and really feeling something. Managing our emotions improves our relationships and we act with love towards ourselves, others and the external environment.
Becoming more sensitive develops our gratitude level, we gain the capacity to appreciate all that we are given and treasure small things. The sense of reality is strongly felt and we realize that our everyday choices affect the larger systems. The urge to serve grows in our heart and we desire to engage more in community work. When we realize that we are not only this body and feel our spirit, it becomes easier to detach from the materialistic pattern that creates incredible waste and be happy to live a minimalistic lifestyle.
Through meditation and other inner engineering practices we enhance the purity and simplicity of our nature and sustainability is in tune with the same idea of going back to the roots, to the essence of existence. Eventually it all comes down to love. . Self-love is the seed from which everything grows.
To learn about unconditional love, we only need to observe the earth we walk upon. If we poison the waters and cut down its forests, nature still keeps pouring on us, but the question is: can we be happy with this? To love something is to take it as a part of ourselves, and when we gain the capacity to feel the pain and scream of the Universe and use every action to contribute to global healing, then we know that our inner work is properly done. The universe we live in is a mirror of what is within us, so we don’t need to look outside for the answers, they were with us all along.
We are living in an extreme crisis: we are amidst the 6th mass extinction since the beginning of life on Earth, a lifestyle model that demands nearly 2 planets in terms of resources and the threat of climate change which poses us the daunting task of cutting our carbon emissions by at least 50% in 10 years to avoid some of the most catastrophic effects.
As the concerns increase, solutions seem to emerge. Technological innovations offering energy efficiency are taking place, businesses are growing more conscious of their impact and global environmental governance agreements are on their way. Nonetheless if we look at the effort required to cut down our carbon emissions to protect our civilization from collapse, the current efforts seem to be no more than palliative measures.
The problem has grown too large and complex. It demands a different mode of thinking and being. As Albert Einstein has put it, we can’t solve problems by using the same kind of thinking we used when we created them. Hence we need not only to shift how we do business or manage natural resources. We need a complete shift in our values and belief systems – a shift in consciousness.
This shift in consciousness requires us to move away from anthropocentrism, where human wants and needs are put in the center of everything, and a move towards eco-centrism, where the intrinsic value of life on the planet is taken into account. For if we don’t value nature for its own sake, how will we ever make the right choices to protect it? If many of us are not aware of the interconnectedness of the web of life and the role we play in it, how will we ever take responsibility for our own personal impact on the planet?
Time has come to go beyond the idea of a triple bottom line. Balancing people, planet and profit has led to some positive changes such as increased corporate social responsibility, fair trade and general environmental awareness. Yet the change required is in a more subjective and subtle level, the very way we perceive the world. For this, we come to realize that the dimension of spirituality needs to be brought into education, culture and the general social imaginary.
By spirituality we don’t mean a particular religion. We mean a humble recognition that humans are not the center of the world, that selfishness and individualism will ultimately lead to the collapse of all, that pursuing endless material comfort is leading to irreversible destruction and that each single one of us has an impact in the great chain of life. We believe that it is in spiritual awakening where the greatest potential for a change in attitudes and behavior rests.
By considering a quadruple bottom line, where spiritual awareness is equally pursued along with shared abundance, environmental protection and social wellbeing, a more holistic model gains the chance of guiding us towards a new way of life – and hopefully out of this crisis.
In this context India has much to teach to the world. Since the beginning of Indian civilization, material renunciation and the refusal of that which is vain and unnecessary has been perceived as an elevated attitude. The interconnectedness of life has been described in Vedic scriptures thousands of years ago, showing how a harmonious living in the planet takes place once all forms of life are recognized and valued.
Despite the urgency for change, the shift in consciousness and its reflection in action are likely to be a gradual process. For this transition to happen, the sector of education can play a great role. The spiritual insights necessary for a shirt towards eco-centrism can come through the facilitation of experiences that lead to an intrinsic appreciation of nature, greater self-awareness and a deeper understanding of life of on Earth. Different types of education centers can carry out this facilitation, such as schools, universities, institutes and NGO’s. By facilitating a shift in consciousness we are training the agents of change: people with a sense of planetary citizenship who can positively affect their communities with regenerative or sustainability initiatives.
Being the current generation, we have the great responsibility of making decisions that will affect the future of many species, including ours. Although any kind of sustainability may seem good at this point, we have to be aware of the fact that some lead to technological fixes that ultimately maintain the destructive status-quo. Promoting a quadruple bottom line is effective as it gives us the opportunity to review our own attitudes and mode of life, the very cause of the problem. Supporting spiritual ecological awareness is likely to be the most powerful tool today, as it is the very basis of ecologically sound behavior.