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Identity of a practicing Yogi - H.G.Govind das

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.