Friday, January 10, 2014

Know the real objective of Yoga besides the Wellbeing and Physical fitness aspects

The real objective of Yoga has been shrouded in false beliefs in the recent decades due to the ever increasing marketing propaganda about the physical fitness aspects and aerobics. Many Yoga centers in many countries including India have found Yoga as a good business tool and there has been an increasing focus about the Yoga, its advantages to the physical fitness and flexibility are being overwhelmingly discussed. All that can be considered as just one of the many dimensions of Yoga called ‘Hatha Yoga’ and it is not complete Yoga in itself.

Though almost every one is quite familiar with the name ‘YOGA’, there may perhaps be only a few who understand it in its true spirit. Some think about it to be a mysterious science leading to certain supernatural powers known as Siddhis. 

Others confine it to physical exercises of Asana (posture), Pranayama (regulated breathing), etc., meant only for wellbeing, the purpose of building up a sound physique so as to be able to demonstrate extraordinary feats of muscular strength and endurance. Still others treat it as a means for developing hypnotic powers to display wonders or to cure diseases by force of willpower. The numerous commentaries written by learned professors on the basis of their partial knowledge have dealt with the subject in parts only, representing a single part as the complete whole. This has so much added to its complexities that almost anything mysterious, occult or esoteric has now come round to be counted as Yoga.

It is for this reason that ordinary feats like resting on thorns or lying buried for sometime are considered by the masses to be yogic attainments. Such are the views commonly held by most of the people today. For all these varied reasons Yoga, which is one of the most efficient means of realization of the Ultimate, has on account of these misleading notions, been converted into a mere physical pursuit aimed at the achievement of certain miraculous powers or Siddhis.

In the recent past, there have been some extreme events that some religious clerics declared that no ‘OM’ sound/syllable shall be used in Yoga as using ‘OM’ would make Yoga Hindu and so some fatwas had also been issued against its use in some Muslim countries thereby making Yoga also a political issue.

In some Christian countries, the people have gone overboard by creating ‘Christian Yoga’ replacing Sanskrit verses/sounds with verses from Bible. There seems no end to such marketing, but no one wants to/can’t change the word ‘Yoga’ and invent a new equivalent term because Yoga means business and has become immensely popular in these days.

And when things get popular, people only tend to believe in the popular news about the topic, and they generally don’t go into the detail for understanding the basics. Our emphasis in this article/post is to bring back our readers to that level of understanding through which Yoga is understood as a wholesome concept for one’s life instead of bits and pieces. Yoga for us shall be a method of practice for self awareness and realization of the Highest, the Almighty. It is not just about learning and practicing some asanas (postures), some aerobics and achieving a good physique, fitness, etc., which are not permanent, as they are eventually lost with old age, disease and deterioration of the physical body.

It is therefore essential in the interest of spirituality to present to the readers a correct view of Yoga, purging out from it all complexities and misplaced notions. It is in fact the real natural life of a man. It lays down an accurate way of living in divine consciousness, away from egoistic consciousness. It offers, in the real sense, a complete solution of the human problem of existence and is open to everybody without any distinction or reservation. This is the only path that leads one up to the highest level of spiritual elevation.

As a matter of fact, Yoga is very old concept dating back to some 1000s of years before the Common Era (C.E.), and was being followed by saints and sages long before Patanjali’s Yoga Shastra was introduced. Reference to yoga can be traced out even in the Upanishads of Vedic period. But during that period, there being no systematic exposition of the subject, the practices (Upasanas) followed were based on the personal understanding and experience of teachers, and they passed down from mind to mind, heart to heart or from the teacher to the disciples. This in course of time developed into different forms known by the common name of Yoga. This may account for the introduction of so many types of yoga, as they have come down to us.

With a view to remove these complexities, the great sage Patanjali made a marvelous effort to present a consolidated form of Yoga by coordinating all the different systems prevalent at that time. It includes almost all the essential features represented as different types under different names. Karma, Bhakti and Gyana are its essential features. Japa, Tapa, etc., are the means or practices advised in individual cases according to the particular needs of the Abhyasi, and Laya, Samadhi, etc., pertain to the results. It is thus, a systematic course complete in almost every respect and suited to the ultimate purpose of an aspirant from the beginning to the end.

As regards practicability of Yoga in the ordinary worldly life, almost everyone is fed up with constantly hearing that yogic pursuit is impossible and impracticable in a natural Grihastha (household) life, hence higher divine attainments are not possible for a common man unless he gives up his worldly living, bids farewell to his wife, children and relations and assumes the saffron robes of a sadhu. The same thing is being preached from almost every platform, even by men of high fame and well established supremacy.

Excessive attachment to worldly objects is no doubt a hindrance in the divine path, but that does not mean that by giving up the worldly living and deserting the children and relations, one definitely gets free from feelings of attachment. Our real problem is to conquer the feeling of undue attachment (maya-moha) which is mind-related for which false detachment imposed by physical means is no solution at all. The feeling relates directly to the tendencies of mind for which one has only to look to the proper regulation of the mind in order to relieve it of its misdirected trend. If that is done everything will be set right by itself and one shall be totally free from undue attachment even though he be leading a worldly life connected with all the worldly objects.

The next important point in this connection relates to the indiscriminate enforcement of Brahmacharya or celibacy, which is proclaimed to be vitally essential for the yogic pursuit. But how they define Brahmacharya remains commonly unexplained and unspecified in almost all cases. In ordinary sense it is taken to mean complete cessation of sex life and the same view is presented by almost all sermon preachers of the doctrine.  In the true sense both the sexes are the necessity of Nature and it is not without purpose that they have come into existence. Thus total segregation of sexes proclaimed under rules is an open violation of the Divine Law, hence absolutely unjustifiable on social and moral grounds.

In the true sense, the term Brahmacharya refers to perfect discipline and regulated moderation in co-relationship of sexes, avoiding abuse and extravagance arising out of feeling of lust for sensual enjoyment. If this is overcome, the conjugal relationship turns into a sacred tie brought into effect for the fair discharge of the Divine Duty. Even a married man in his ordinary worldly life may rightly claim to be a Brahmachari in the true sense. Thus, it is not the conjugality that is detrimental to the yogic pursuit but only its abuse and the wrong ways of living and general conduct which are to be set right.

The sage Patanjali prescribed Ashtanga Yoga which is eight fold method (Yama, Niyama, Asana, Pranayama, Pratyahara, Dharana, Dhyana and Samadhi) for the self realization.

For those without a clue about where to start to get familiar with these concepts, we recommend to follow the advice of Sri Ramachamndraji Maharaj who has taken up the same system in the name of Sahaj Marg duly making certain changes to suit to the present way of living. His system starts with Dhyana (the 7th one which means Meditation) and proceed to Samadhi, leaving the above first six folds because nowadays the whole life time of a human being is not enough to take up all the eight folds in the sequential manner.

To know more about Yoga the readers are advised to see the article Absolute Spirituality explained by Sahaj Marg tagged under ‘Philosophy’, 'Sahaj Marg' and ‘LifeTools’ categories posted on this website.

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Courtesy: Summary of the collection from the book 'A peep into Sahajmarg' written by Sri Ishwar Sahai. Contributed by Sri. P. Subbarayudu & Sri. B.E. Sampath Kumar of Sri RamaChandraji Maharaj Seva Trust, Kadapa.
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