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
Yama : The word, yama, means “to harness” or “to restraint” These practices are related to disciplining the self on external or social levels. These are the methods of applying the behavioral codes of yoga on how the Yogi deals with the external world or the people in general. It relates to externally visible discipline or etiquette.
Niyama : Niyama is related to disciplining the self from within while keeping the connection with external realities with no attempt to deny them. It is the act of disciplining the emotions within, even if the external situation does not change. However, one should try to change the external difficulties, if it is logical and real.
Asana (posture or position) : Interestingly, asanas are closely related to yama and niyama. One can experience the ease of performing Asanas only when one follows the first two limbs of Yoga properly. Therefore, perfection of asanas are linked to proper harmony between Yamaand Niyama. This is the reason a real Yoga teacher does not push the student to stretch to his limits while performing Asanas but in contrast, the teacher asks the student to be alert and stretch only according to his capacity. It is called as, “sthiram sukham asanam,” which means stability and satisfaction while performing the asanas. In fact if one starts performing the asanas properly under the guidance of good teacher then the first two previous principles also become a requirement for yoga student. So following the first two limbs are important before performing the asanas, as it’s not possible for a disturbed person to even stand in one place, what to speak of performing any asanas.
Pranayama (balancing the vital energy) : When we see a person heavily panting in the start of an uphill trekking itself, we can easily deduce that the lungs of that person have not opened up clearly. Trekking is natural only when the lungs are open. So Breathing is very much important to one's movement and pranayama deals with this aspect. Those who breathes nicely, not only the brisk walking becomes possible for them but it also helps them in making clear decisions. It is also observed that a person who is confused or excited state, they experience the breathing troubles. Pranayama teaches to control the breath and learning pranayama enables practitioner to strike a proper balance in all aspects of life including physical levels, mental levels, speech, decision-making and in execution of his work.
Pratyahara : Pratyahara means to withdraw. The withdraw here does not refer to retiring.It actually refers to cultivating the ability of performing the action at one’s own will. To hold back the action when not required, and release them whenever required. It is the art of detached involvement.
Dharana : It is the art of focusing on one thing for very long time. Dharana from practical perspective is an ability to keep doing something for very long time.
Dhyana : The word dhyana means to contemplate or meditate. It requires one to sit down and have complete absorption on the object of meditation. Same dhyana can also be achieved when someone is deeply involved in some activity for long time with expertise, just like Arjuna was focused in the art of archery.
Samadhi : During Samadhi the action, the actor and the experience merges as one, when one is in absorbed reality. In other words we can say that, though the doer, the activity and the experience, are different to each other, but when the doer is completely involved in activity than all the three experience become one.
Bhagavad Gita describes four varieties of Yoga, namely Bhakti, Jnana, Karma and Astanga.
One may be curious to know the hierarchy of these Yogas to decide which one is most appropriate for them to practice. But these are the doubts of the people who fail to understand the logic of life. One can not quantify the Yoga ladder like currency notes to decide which one is better.
Certainly a thousand rupees bill has more value as compared to a hundred rupees bill, but this is not applicable in case with Yoga. So, one cannot make the distinction of these yoga ladders from a mundane view point.
Everyone wants to practice yoga through a particular path as per their preferences. Even though one may give emphasis on the progress through one particular path but one cannot completely avoid the other Yogic paths. When one understands yoga in proper guidance, he realizes that each type of Yoga has common foundational principle and in reality all the four Yogas are integrated.
In the sixth chapter of Bhagavad Gita, Sri Krishna teaches Arjuna the foundational principle of becoming a Yogi-the knowledge to perform the activities like eating, sleeping, recreation, working and wakefulness in proper moderation without causing conflict amongst them.
For example one may want to work for longer hours, but he or she cannot do that without proper sleep, food or recreation. So having a right balance in these activities makes one qualified to practice Yoga.Therefore, Sri Krishna says, “Be a yogi in every condition.”
Each Yoga system springs from the one particular faculty of human system while engaging other faculties of the body. Asthanga Yoga is the art of meditation based on achieving the proper posture through asanas, and pranayama.The main aim of this Yoga is to gain mind control to make the mind steady and focused.
The Buddhi yoga or Jnana Yoga springs from intelligence or buddhi, It prescribes the use of buddhi to study, discern and ascertain things in their right perspective. Jnana yoga involves the study of scriptures and participating in discourses with others. Eventually in this process of churning such knowledge, Jnana Yogi realizes the absolute truth.
Karma yoga springs from active senses such as hands, legs, mouth etc. where in practitioner learns the process from the predecessor teachers. In other words, it is the process of performing precise action based on the experience gained by practical learning from the previous generation.It is similar to a daughter learning the cooking skills from her mother by seeing, experiencing and eventually tasting the particular preparation.
Ultimately the Bhakti yoga is the heart of all yogas, because, it springs from one’s consciousness.The fundamental of Bhakti Yoga is that the Living being is ultimately ruled by love, while using senses and intelligence in pursuit of success. In essence, when we love the supreme absolute with all our heart, then it is called as bhakti yoga.But when that love is not so permeated but engages one to perform only actions, is called Karma yoga where one performs the work with a sense of duty. One who pursuits behind knowledge, finds God in his knowledge and moves ahead in life with gratitude is considered as Jnana yogi.
So, Bhakti is doing all the three simultaneously but with addition of the element of love emanating from the heart.
In Reality one is encouraged to naturally follow his particular path and his sampradaya with the right spirit, he grows with the right legacy and then all of above have the potential to harmonize.
The conclusion of every chapter of Bhagavata Gita describes itself as a Yoga sastra (scripture of yoga) and ends with, “Sri Krishna Arjuna samvade, yoga sastre, atah….” Therefore, the Gita is a genuine source of principles of yoga for sincere seekers. Moreover, Sri Krishna aptly describes yoga in the second chapter as he advises a bewildered and hesitant Arjuna, “Perform your duty equipoised, O Arjuna, abandoning all attachment to success or failure. Such equanimity is called yoga” (Bhagavad-Gita 2.48).
The Lord essentially describes yoga as the process of creating a balance between failure and success; a harmonization between opposites – because duality is a basis of the world. Duality can be found in every action and aspect of life. For instance, success may be tainted with pride and arrogance, while failure may be enhanced by humility and growth. Understanding and reconciling such contradictions is true yoga according to Sri Krishna. To emphasize, Krishna further elaborates, “A man engaged in work with intelligence flavored with yoga (Buddhi yoga), rids himself of both good and bad reactions even in this life. Therefore, strive for yoga, which is the art of all work” (2.50). Herein, Krishna clearly discourages the notions of being excessively absorbed in matter resulting in bhoga (enjoyment), or over-exaggerated fear leading to tyaga (inactivity). There are those that fear everything and so do nothing to avoid being bounded by the shackles of material existence and then we have those that are so deep into their mundane illusion that the idea of “bondage” is non-existent – these people can be likened to drunkards who are totally unaware of their surroundings while lying in an open gutter somewhere. Hence, the Lord explains yoga as the art of balancing.
Similarly, certain asanas in yoga such as the Shrishasana (head standing pose), require delicate equilibrium. With time and perseverance, one develops the central gravitational force needed to stabilize and stand on their head. Likewise, physical balancing and equanimity in life are interconnected; through understanding Gita’s philosophical yoga combined with yoga asanas, one can experience the real yoga of life and calibrate all aspects of survival. Sri Krishna creates a thread between asanas and life to establish a wholesome balance. It is only when one is able to successfully sync habits and meditation, that they can benefit from the real fruit of yoga. Sri Krishna further explicates, “When the yogi, by practice of yoga, disciplines his mental activities and becomes situated in transcendence – devoid of all desires, he is said to be well established in yoga” (6.18). The perfect stage of yoga is when one’s life, habits, asanas, mental stability and intelligence, assimilate into a complete circle that can travel at great speeds with perfect stability. Furthermore, in the 6th chapter, entitled “Dhyana Yoga”, Sri Krishna actually explains some specific aspects of correct yoga postures and a stable life as He states, “To practice yoga, one should go to a secluded place and should lay kuśa grass on the ground and then cover it with a deerskin and a soft cloth. The seat should be neither too high nor too low and should be situated in a sacred place. The yogī should then sit on it very ﬁrmly and practice yoga to purify the heart by controlling his mind, senses and activities and ﬁxing the mind on one point. While meditating, one should hold one’s body, neck and head erect in a straight line and stare steadily at the tip of the nose” (6.11-13). Sri Krishna clearly defines a yoga process similar to the Dhyana practice described by Patanjali muni. He repeatedly speaks of equilibrium, i.e., “one should not sit too high or too low…one should neither bend forwards or backwards, or side to side but be…straight”. Additionally, in the same chapter Krishna continues, “There is no possibility of one’s becoming a yogi, O Arjuna, if one eats too much or eats too little, sleeps too much or does not sleep enough. He who is regulated in his habits of eating, sleeping, recreation and work, can mitigate all material pains by practicing the yoga system” (6.16-17). Hence, Krishna speaks about a stable lifestyle because asanas without a fitting regime are nothing but acrobatic postures fit for a circus - only good for some financial gain.
Consequently, Sri Krishna concludes the sixth chapter with urging Arjuna to be a yogi in all circumstances, “A yogi is greater than the ascetic, greater than the empiricist and greater than the worker with expectations. Therefore, O Arjuna, in all circumstances, be a yogi” (6.46). Thus, as per the Gita, life is yoga, and yoga is actually real life; without a yogic life, existence is undoubtedly ejected by the power of time. Additionally, those who follow the path of yoga, experience a level of reality where leaving or living are irrelevant, because in all conditions, they remain yogis.
The Yog Sutras written by Patanjali gives the detail and deeper philosophical concept of Yoga and for this reason it is widely accepted and translated in so many languages. In these YogSutras Patanjali did not describe the Yog asanas in detail, instead he enumerated the psychological disposition for the Yoga practitioner. He listed down do’s and don’ts for the Yoga practitioner while practicing the asanas and described the required support system for Yoga practice. He further wrote about the byproduct of such practices and ultimately described the final destination of the practitioner.
In the Samadhi pada, the first section the Yog sutras, the knowledge of achieving the complete absorption or intense state of concentration is described because only in complete absorption one can practice the Yoga. Even if a person wants to win the game he or she has to be in complete absorption while playing the game otherwise he may be out of the game in no time. Similarly, without stable mind one cannot practice anything in this world. Therefore, in the Yoga practices controlling the mind is most important for achieving the steady samadhi and to achieve this state one must take the shelter of ishwara while practicing Yoga.
In the Sadhana pada, the second section of yoga sutras, the act of internal and external discipline caused by determination (Samadhi) to practice the Yoga is described. Sadhana padabasically describes the process of action with determination. It explains the external discipline yama and internal discipline niyama. This section also consists the knowledge of various asanas, pranayamas, and other elemental activities.
The Vibhuti pada, the third section, talks about the transactional consequences of Sadhana with contemplation. The regular practice with steady mind and deep concentration the practitioner experiences the changes in his abilities. One who reaches this threshold of vibhuti pada, steadily gets the ability to control the surrounding. The perfect yogi’s can manipulate the nature, live a longer life, read the mind and increase memory to extraordinary levels. As one goes higher and higher, one actually becomes smaller than smallest, lighter than the lightest, getsthings from distant places without physical movement. But the beauty of yoga sutras is that, they do not intend to impress the practitioner to settle down to such Siddhis, in fact PatanjaliMuni advises the true practitioner to consciously shun such display of siddhis. One who is able to control the temptation of siddhi, is accepted as the top most Yogi. Therefore, the sincere and determined Yogis feel that such siddhis are the distraction from their goal, and they consciously move ahead to experience the last pada i.e. Kaivalya Pada.
The Kaivalya Pada describes the perfect experience of ultimate reality. Kaivalya means the oneness of consciousness. The practitioner with Bhakti yoga leaning, starts experiencing the love of his beloved deity or Bhagavan. For the astanga yogi, it is the perception of paramatma in the heart and the Jnan Yogi sees the brahaman everywhere. One who has karma yoga inkling, sees divinity in his work and in his relationships. Therefore, Kaivalya means having harmony with the natural laws and the law maker.
The Yoga sutras are not arranged leanearly, they are arranged in a circular form like a wheel. All the four pada or sections have different level of depth. As one progress in the path of yoga the wheel of depth goes deeper and deeper and the student experiences deeper levels of samadhi, sadhana, vibhuti and Kaivalya. In this way the wheel keeps moving and carrying one to experience the deeper levels of reality. Therefore, in the tradition of sanatana dharma the practice and perfection are one, and the same. The journey and destination are endless but in this endless journey itself one can experience the perfection. Therefore, it is said, that there is perfect, more perfect and most perfect.
From the beginning of creation, the three syllables om tat sat have been used to indicate the Supreme Absolute Truth [Brahman]. They were uttered by brahmanas while chanting Vedic hymns and during sacrifices for the satisfaction of the Supreme."
Throughout all the Vedic literatures the glories of omkara are specifically mentioned. Srila Jiva Gosvami, in his thesis Bhagavat-sandarbha, says that in the Vedic literature omkara is considered to be the sound vibration of the holy name of the Supreme Personality of Godhead. Only this vibration of transcendental sound can deliver a conditioned soul from the clutches of maya. Sometimes omkara is also called the deliverer (tara). Srimad-Bhagavatam begins with the omkara vibration: om namo bhagavate vasudevaya. Therefore omkara has been described by the great commentator Sridhara Svami as tarankura, the seed of deliverance from the material world. Since the Supreme Godhead is absolute, His holy name and His sound vibration omkara are as good as He Himself. Caitanya Mahaprabhu says that the holy name, or omkara, the transcendental representation of the Supreme Personality of Godhead, has all the potencies of the Personality of Godhead.
namnam akari bahudha nija-sarva-saktis
tatrarpita niyamitah smarane na kalah
All potencies are invested in the holy vibration of the holy name of the Lord. There is no doubt that the holy name of the Lord, or omkara, is the Supreme Personality of Godhead Himself. In other words, anyone who chants omkara and the holy name of the Lord, Hare Krishna, immediately meets the Supreme Lord directly in His sound form. In the Narada-pancaratra it is clearly said that the Supreme Personality of Godhead Narayana personally appears before the chanter who engages in chanting the ashtakshara, or eight-syllable mantra, om namo narayanaya. A similar statement in the Mandukya Upanishad declares that whatever one sees in the spiritual world is all an expansion of the spiritual potency of omkara.
On the basis of all the Upanishads, Srila Jiva Gosvami says that omkara is the Supreme Absolute Truth and is accepted as such by all the acaryas and authorities. Omkara is beginningless, changeless, supreme and free from deterioration and external contamination. Omkara is the origin, middle and end of everything, and any living entity who thus understands omkara attains the perfection of spiritual identity in omkara. Omkara, being situated in everyone's heart, is isvara, the Supreme Personality of Godhead, as confirmed in the Bhagavad-gita (18.61): isvarah sarva-bhutanam hrid-dese 'rjuna tishthati. Omkara is as good as Vishnu because omkara is as all-pervasive as Vishnu. One who knows omkara and Lord Vishnu to be identical no longer has to lament or hanker. One who chants omkara no longer remains a sudra but immediately comes to the position of a brahmana. Simply by chanting omkara one can understand the whole creation to be one unit, or an expansion of the energy of the Supreme Lord: idam hi visvam bhagavan ivetaro yato jagat-sthana-nirodha-sambhavah. "The Supreme Lord Personality of Godhead is Himself this cosmos, and still He is aloof from it. From Him only this cosmic manifestation has emanated, in Him it rests, and unto Him it enters after annihilation." (Bhag. 1.5.20) Although one who does not understand concludes otherwise, Srimad-Bhagavatam states that the entire cosmic manifestation is but an expansion of the energy of the Supreme Lord. Realization of this is possible simply by chanting the holy name of the Lord, omkara.
Yoga is often misunderstood as merely breath control, asanas or exercises; for some it is about practising some rules and regulations based on morality and for others it is cultivation of scriputral knowledge. But the real purpose of Yoga is to fix our mind on the Supreme.
According to Bhagavad-gita, yoga can not be practiced unless we practice mind control. An uncontrolled mind restricts the soul from reaching its natural blissful state, which a practioner is trying to acheive through yoga.
Our mind works like a television set. A television set is just some plastic, metal, and glass fitted with circuits inside. This box can tune into waves of energy transmitted by a satellite to produce images and sounds.
The pleasure that we are looking for in this world is compared to the energy emitted by the satellite. Satellites can transmit energy that can be received through millions of televison sets, but not every television is tuned into same channel. For human beings, the senses are just like an antenna, receiving whatever station the tuning device chooses. The tuning device is the mind. We tune into what our mind focuses on, and what we are tuned into is what affects us and our life.
People are affected by watching advertisements. They tune into the product, get attracted to it and then buy it. Similalry, we will be affected by whatever we tune into. This is the law of nature – “We become like whatever we associate with”. For example, if we put an iron rod in fire, it becomes red hot like fire. If we put that same iron rod in ice, due to its association with ice, it becomes as cold as ice. So, yoga simply means tuning our mind into a spiritual channel.
In Bhagavad-gita [BG 2.62], it is mentioned that while contemplating the objects of the senses, one developes attachment. Contemplation is the mind’s way of tuning in. Our whole direction in life is based on what we contemplate, or what station or channel we choose to tune our mind into. The mind contemplates and then activates the senses. The most beautiful sense object may be kept right next to us, but if our mind is absorbed somewhere else and we don’t even look at it, we will not be affected. Therefore Bhagvad-gita states, “For one who controls the mind, the mind is the best of the friends, but for one who is unable to control the mind, the mind is the worst enemy.” The only enemy a person can have is his or her own uncontrolled mind. If our mind is controlled, there are no enemies outside.
We should try to avoid tuning in to negative forces because everytime we do, our receptivity to positive forces reduces. If we avoid all these other stations, and we tune into the channel of Supreme power then our receptivity for spirituality becomes much deeper.
What is the identity of practicing a yogi? This is a common question for those who want to actually practice the Yoga in his life. It is natural for a person to become greatly enthusiastic in his practices when he or she discovers something mystical in nature. They tend to break all the barriers of the physical and mental levels, and assume that they are progressing in their chosen path and feels that they require no other identity other than being a yogi. It is truly idealistic and lofty feeling. But such a false identity is a result of imagination and cannot sustain for long time. Also, it is not supported in Yoga practices. It is actually harmful and results in loss of faith. Sri Krishna instructs in the Bhagavad Gita to his student of Yoga, Arjuna, to proceed steadily with determination in this journey, so that he remains in the path forever and achieve the perfection. Sri Krishna assures Arjuna that in this path there is no diminution or fall, wherever one leaves the path in this life gets the chance to proceed from same level in the next life. In other words being actively involved in the process of Yoga is more important than rushing for perfection. The quicker one desires to achieve perfection, the faster one gets disillusioned and ultimately gives up the practice of Yoga. Therefore, a practitioner focuses on the journey instead of destination.
The practicing Yogi, is complete in oneself. His identity is based on the four aspects of his life namely the dharmik identity (global), cultural identity (national) local identity (race and regional) and ultimately his own sadhana based upon his faith (personal identity).
Each of these identities are complex to understand but can be experienced in one’s daily life. The experiences are subtle which works on subconscious levels which are not easily observable on gross level but starts to make sense when explained properly. Dharmik identity basically relates to universal laws which are applicable on everyone beyond the boundaries of race, religion, faith and prevailing customs. Everyone is experiencing the same sun, moon, water and fire and has the same blood in their body. Everyone in this world takes birth, gets sick, procreates and eventually gets old and dies. This is observed globally and submission to this principle is dharma and accepting this truth is dharmik identity, as even though there are millions of diversities in this world but these laws are foundational and unchangeable. Cultural identity is based on geographical location, affected by ones surrounding in a particular region and constitutes national identity. Here the National identity should be understood as a cultural identity instead of political. The present day India was called as the land of Bharata because it has the connection with nature. The Vishnu purana mentions the Bharat is spread from the Himalayas to Kanyakujmari. The word India was coined later, as originally the people living on the other side of Sindhu river were identified as Sindhu. Then Sindhu became indhu to indic and then eventually India. One’s place of residence shapes the nature. In fact, it is said, that as water changes from place to place the language also changes. Every region has different taste of water and So the people residing there also act differently. This cultural identity is not to become proud, but to be responsible. One should know one's cultural identity and be rooted in them but not at the cost of denying the identity of other's. Every country which has long civilizational history of thousands years, act differently even though they belong to same religion. The Persian’s are different from the Arabs. The Germans have great differences from the British, even though they are from same religion. China is so close to India, but their language, behavior and food habits are completely different.
In India the regional identity is extremely diverse. People from Kerala region have a different custom compared to Punjab. Therefore, the Hindu identity is based upon accepting the diversities. A Hindu does not have problem with diversity. In every region in India, the customs of marriage as well as every aspect of life is different; the way food is prepared, worshiping of different devatas or worshiping same devatas and so many unique flavors compared to others. Hindus have hundreds of languages, many varieties of calendars. This is the emblem of Hindu diversity.
Once a person who was unaware of Hinduism asked a learned man, “why Hindus do not have one scriptures like other?,” the learned man asked back, “why we should have one scripture? We should have library. Having a single scripture is a narrow view of oneself and the world at large. So here we have scriptures according to one’s taste of learning and one can choose accordingly,” Hence, accepting such diversity foster unity.
Finally, the identity of personal faith or shraddha is very private, just like one’s bank balance, treasury and wealth. One does not talk about them openly, disclosed in privacy only to those who are very close to the heart. Faith when publicized and used for conversion of masses creates threat, violence and broken society. Faithful person remains loyal to his path, but equally he or she appreciates others for their journey as long as it is not illegal and does not undermine any other faith.
The true Yogi practices such harmony and moves on, just like one practices shirshasana. Shirshasana is difficult asana to practice, but eventually one can do that as long as one wants it. Balancing these four identities is the asana of the intellect and the mind, and the one who does it properly sees great power of divinity everywhere.
In our life we observe that all our interactions are based upon certain layers of realities. Though All interactions are real but Some are external and superficial and some are very deep and rare.Therefore, those which are in abundance are called as natural and practical and those which are rare are called as poetic, idealistic, far fetched ideas which can be rarely be experienced in real life.
One real layer of interaction is the interaction of punishment and reward, which is found in abundance in our normal course of interaction. The punishing interactions are sometimes referred as hellish experience and when the interaction is related to reward, it is referred as heavenly experience. The history of mankind reveals that the Religion is successfully used to control the population based upon the principle of fear of God and hell for a long time. Even today some civilizations still control their population by the power of punishment. The principle of reward is promised in the form of heaven but experience of real heaven is difficult to fathom for most of the people in their present situation, whereas hell is experienced by them almost every day. Those who are powerful, throw some tiny rewards to the underprivileged for keeping them grateful and remain subservient to them as their master. The history of organized religion is filled with the examples of such phenomenon.
The next layer of interactions with the world and God is based upon the principle of duty and love. Being dutiful for long time is not easy without the promise of rewards or the fear of punishment. In the Modern days we observe that whenever the population is kept under constant fear for long time, it has resulted in the reckless rebellion for the freedom from oppression. And the allurement of reward is not enticing for an educated person. The heavenly rewards are rejected by the logical and self-made people. Therefore, when we see someone is worshiping God and has a good relation with friends and family, then it is only because of their dutifulness. Such dutiful people can be compared to the movement of the sun and the moon, always rise on time and setting on time. For such people being dutiful itself is the greatest reward, beyond that they do not aspire anything else. If something comes to them on its own accord, it’s a bonus. Their philosophy is “I act because I need to act.” Some sincere spiritual practitioners grow because they are duty bound.
The fourth and deepest layer of interaction is based on the principle of love or prema. In this world we observe that all relationships are based upon the realities based only on transaction. There is no love, its all co-operative transactions, beyond exploitation, dedication and competition. But only with God there can be deeper relationship based upon love. This interaction is beyond fear, reward and duty.
Sri Krishna is called as God of prema. He taught the world the act of Love through the villagers of Vraja. They were willing to do anything and everything for Sri Krishna. This is the most evolved concept of God realization. Similarly, Sri Krishna interacted with every living entity in Vrindavana, including the deer, peacock and cows. Such loving interactions are called as Bhakit yoga, sharanagati or Prema bhakti. Therefore, when one relates with God, having no other motivation, other than love and without any interruption, such relationship is very relish able, because there is no expectation, other than love.
Such loving descriptions are scattered in all the vedic literature especially in Bhagavatam and Ramayana. When our senses, mind, intelligence and ego are engaged in doing what they are supposed to be doing with heart filled with love for God, then one becomes a perfect Yogi.