Satsang with


The history of yoga is not ancient although it is an ancient science, it is an ancient subject. But in this modern age it is only about 40 to 50 years old and our Paramguru, our grandfather guru Swami Sivananda, was the first person to propagate yoga. But for what reason? Did Swami Sivananda consider yoga to be a physical practice only? A physical science only? Did he consider yoga to be a mental process or did he consider yoga to be a spiritual process? In the past, yoga was seen as a spiritual process, but somewhere down the line we isolated spirituality from our physical and mental experiences and we created a division between the experiences of the body, between the experiences of the mind and between the experiences of the spirit. Today we say body is different to spirit, body is different to mind, spirit is different to mind, spirit is different to body. But are they really separate? I’m not going to answer that now, I’m going to come back to Swami Sivananda.
Swami Sivananda said that yoga is the process of harmonising and balancing, uplifting, developing and transforming the human nature and the human personality. These ideas of Swami Sivananda created the foundation of yoga. The teachings imparted by Swami Sivananda were conveyed by his many disciples. These teachings became the foundation for the development of yoga in this century and in this past century. Some of his disciples took yoga into physical, mental and spiritual levels to fulfil the needs that we feel today.

Before I go on I would like to clarify one point here. Yoga emphasises the experience of unity between body, mind and spirit. Yoga does not advocate, it does not teach, it does not preach that humans are divine or humans are stupid. There are many philosophies in the world, many systems of thought in the world, which say that essentially man is divine. A human being is divine, good idea, no doubt. But are we able to understand; are we able to experience the concept of divinity in this life, in this situation, in this environment? If you think about divinity - the idea, the concept of divinity is immediately associated with a religious thought, with a religious idea, with a religious concept. If I’m right, I haven’t had the time to look up in the dictionary, but I feel that the word psyche means or relates to spirit. The word psychology relates to the experience of the spiritual nature and in this context we can very well understand that spirit, mind and physical experiences are integrated with each other, they are not different to each other. Psyche is the deeper realm of human consciousness. The manifest consciousness associating with the world and environment is known as the mind, but the unmanifest consciousness, is known as the spirit. So in other words we can say that the spirit, when identified with the world, is known and recognised as the mind and spirit when identified with itself is recognised as spirituality. This concept has been conveyed by Patanjali when he says, in the 3rd sutra, that one becomes the drashta, one becomes the seer, one becomes the observer and through becoming the observer realises his or her own true nature. That realisation of the true nature is the spiritual realisation. But this realisation has to happen by following a process of understanding and experiencing, the gross nature, the gross mind. The gross mind is a composition of different vrittis or experiences, which are physical, which are emotional, which are intellectual and many times internal, psychic. When Swami Sivananda defined or clarified this concept of yoga, many of his disciples investigated deep into this yogic process to find out how yoga was relevant to human life, to human personality, to human body, to human nature. One of the pioneers in the yogic tradition has been our guru Paramahamsa Satyananda.

There have been two traditions of yoga in the world, which in broad category we call the Northern Indian tradition and the Southern Indian tradition. Hatha yoga and Kriya yoga of Babaji belong to the southern yogic tradition. Raja yoga of Patanjali, Bhakti yoga of Narada and the Tantric Kriya yoga, which has been propagated by Swami Satyananda and Swami Sivananda represent the northern yogic tradition. Although today when we are not exposed to the various traditions we feel that yoga is one subject, yoga is one theme, but it is not so. The southern tradition of yoga emphasised physical purity and psychic awakening – Hatha yoga and Kriya yoga. The northern tradition of yoga emphasised Raja yoga - the system of mind management, Bhakti yoga - the system of emotional management, and Kundalini yoga, the Tantric Kriya yoga - the system of psychic awakening, spiritual unfoldment. Today we have combined Hatha with Raja with Bhakti with Karma with Kriya with Kundalini, these two traditions represent the original thoughts which guided the spiritual aspirant to discover their inner nature.

Swami Satyananda was one of the first persons to translate the ancient concepts of yoga into modern language. He was the first person to adapt the ancient yogic ideas and practices to suit the needs of the modern person. If somebody asked me today, without any bias, I would say that the greatest contributors to the science of yoga in the past has been Patanjali and in the present has been Swami Satyananda. He is the Patanjali of today’s world. We may not understand that now but history shall be the witness of this change in our understanding of the yogic traditions.

But what is the root of yoga? The root of yoga has been Tantra. Not the Tantra that we read about in the books and in the literature available in the market today. Not the Tantra which people understand as sexuality and sensuality. But the Tantra which deals with the realisation and the awakening of the dormant faculties in every person, in every being. The word Tantra means expansion and liberation, expansion of consciousness and liberation of energy. Consciousness and energy, these are the two forces which have governed our life as a human being right from stone age to this atomic age. Consciousness is known as chetana or chitta, chetana in the broad term, chitta in the material terms. Energy has been identified with prana, vitality, the force of life. It is the awakening or the expansion of this consciousness and the liberation of energy which has been the subject matter of Tantra.

Tantra has five limbs. Just as Raja yoga has eight limbs - the yamas, niyamas, asanas, pranayamas, pratyahara, dharana, dhyana and samadhi. Tantra has five limbs, five aspects, these are known as acharas. Achara means an attitude, a lifestyle, an expression, an idea and a practice. The first of the achara of Tantra, the first limb of Tantra is known as vedachara, the path of wisdom. The second is known as siddhantachara. Siddhanta means perfect end, the desired end, the culmination or the flowering of human personality, the culmination of human efforts to experience the transcendental - beyond time, space and object. The third is yogachara, the path of unity between body, mind and spirit. The fourth is dakshinachara the path to control, the pranic dimension of life. The fifth is known as vamachara, the path to control the mind and various expressions of the mind. These have been the five limbs of Tantra.

I will describe in brief these five limbs of Tantra. Let us start with the common concept of Tantra which is known as dakshinachara, the right hand path of Tantra, and vamachara, the left hand path of Tantra. You know for many days I thought, “what is the purpose of saying right and left, what do they mean right and left?” The right hand path of Tantra, the left hand path of Tantra, the answer to this question I found in yoga. The right hand represents the pingala nadi; the left hand represents the ida nadi. The right hand represents prana, the left hand represents mind.

So what is the right hand of Tantra? Awakening of the pranic energy, the mahaprana, not the isolated pranas which are located in different parts of the body which you study about in yoga, the prana, the apana, the samana, the udana, the vyana. But the realisation, the awakening and the experience of the energy that governs life in this physical material world and its relationship with the cosmic energy which controls and guides the entire created universe. This is known as the right hand path of Tantra. This right hand path of Tantra is the right hand of God, because after all, the dynamism of life that we experience within us in this created universe, in our body, in the course of our life, in the span of our life from birth to death, is nothing but an interplay of energy, vitality, prana shakti. The body moves because of pranas, the senses function because of pranas - the brain, the cognition, the awareness, all function because of prana. If there is the absence of the prana from our life, if there is absence of vitality from our life there is no cognition, there is no movement, we are dead. So the right hand path of Tantra or the dakshinachara path of Tantra is awakening and controlling this prana shakti. There are many different traditions, techniques and systems which guide us through the process of awakening the lower and higher pranas, the energy in the body; uniting this energy, the physical energy, the mental energy with the cosmic energy. I’m just defining the process, I’m not talking of the techniques.

Vamachara, the left hand aspect of Tantra represents the mind. Many of us, in our ignorance, think that the left hand path of Tantra is the path of sensuality, the path of sexuality. It is the path of accepting life and the instincts of life as we experience it. But who experiences this? Does the body experience them? Is it the spirit which experiences them? Or is it the mind? If you say the left hand path of Tantra is the path of sensuality, then what experiences sensuality in our life? The mind. Who experiences passion? The mind. It is the management of mind which is the subject of the left hand path of Tantra, the vamachara. There are different systems of confronting the mind. Many of you have heard and have read and even have heard from Paramahamsaji, that sensuality and sexuality form a part of human experience. But in normal life we become obsessed by these experiences. In Tantric life we become a witness to these experiences, there is no obsession. But this is not the end. It is becoming the drashta, becoming the seer, becoming the observer of the mental obsessions, of the inner passions, of the inner desires and managing them which is the purpose of the vamachara aspect. Vamachara, or the left hand path teaches one to confront the mind in all its idiosyncrasies, in all its inhibitions and complexes, in all its samskaras and karmas. The cleansing of samskaras - the archetypes, the purification of the karmas, is the purpose of the left hand Tantra.

It is not a question of who can have the best experience in sensuality. It is not a question of who can understand the relationship between this body and the objects that surround this body. It is knowing, it is realising, it is understanding the effects, the influences of the objects which attract us, influences of those objects to our mind. This left hand aspect of Tantra is a very difficult and very involved process because it emphasises the need to develop the component of awareness, and not only awareness, but also wisdom.

The third is yogachara, the path of yoga, it is this path that I am going to speak of before explaining the other paths because it was this path that Paramahamsaji decided was appropriate for us in today’s environment. Why? If you look at the other traditions, yoga is a subject of physical practice, of mental practice. If you look at the southern tradition of yoga - Hatha yoga - Hatha yoga is a process of physical purification and physical enlightenment. Believe me, just as we can believe that spiritual enlightenment is possible, in the same way Tantra believes that physical enlightenment is possible. Physical enlightenment becomes possible when that spiritual experience percolates down into our body, through the mind.

If you feel pain in any part of your body, if you put your finger on top of the fire, if you stab your finger with a needle, what feels the pain? Finger feels the pain. Brain feels the pain. Mind feels the pain. Emotions feel the pain. In the same manner, if there is spiritual enlightenment the state of enlightenment is felt by, and not only felt, but the physical body also responds to that state of enlightenment. The body responds to that experience of enlightenment, to that experience of peace, to that experience of harmony, to that experience of balance. If body becomes enlightened, if body becomes pure, then that enlightenment of the body, the purity of body, is experienced by the spirit as well. The path of yoga in Tantra emphasises this. Paramahamsaji always felt that vedachara - the path of wisdom, siddhantachara - the path of spiritual attainment, dakshinachara - the path of pranic awakening, vamachara - the path of, I would call not mind management but obsession management are all integrated in this yogachara, the path of yoga.

He investigated as to how yoga incorporated components of the left hand and the right hand of Tantra. How yoga incorporated the ideas and the concepts and the views of the vedachara - wisdom path, and siddhantachara - the path of enlightenment, perfect end. He came across a system which he simply refined and developed further which is now known as, for us at least as, Satyananda Yoga. In this yogic path, in this yogic tradition he was able to perceive that the right and the appropriate combination of the yogic practices can lead to the development of the qualities of head, heart and hands.

What were the techniques or the concepts that Swami Satyananda developed for the head? Raja yoga and Jnana yoga. Head representing mind, head representing rationality, head representing the intellectual process - the intellectual understanding. He said for the management of head, for the management of intelligence, mind, two systems are appropriate, Raja yoga because it involves a process of mental discovery through the systems of pratyahara, through the systems of dharana leading one to meditation, leading one to deeper states of meditation known as samadhi.

What are the practices which he developed for the heart? The practices of Bhakti yoga. What are the practices which he emphasised to awaken the qualities of the hands, performance, action? Karma yoga. What about the awakening of the total human personality, the human psyche. He said: “Kundalini and Kriya”. These yogic techniques have now become the trademark, or the foundation stones for the growth of the system which we today know as Satyananda yoga.

How do we deal with our mind? With Raja yoga and Jnana yoga. Jnana means wisdom. Jnana means knowledge. Wisdom or knowledge is an outcome of an expanded and developed awareness, it is an outcome of developed perception. It is an outcome of knowing and realising how we interact in life. Raja yoga is the process of mental discovery, inner discovery. Starting from the most physical and gross, to subtle and internal, which we can all study about it in the Yoga Sutras. Self-awareness and self enquiry. Self-awareness leads to realisation of the mental behaviour. Self-enquiry leads to an understanding of the interaction between life and cosmos.

Heart, Bhakti yoga. In normal language bhakti is translated as devotion, but in actual sense bhakti means emotion, not devotion. Many people think and have identified bhakti with religious act, with religious belief or with and idea or concept of god. But you should understand that yoga does not advocate, nor does it talk about either impersonal or personal god. Different religions do, but yoga as such has no defined concepts about god and if you have read the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali you will find that in the entire book only two sutras have defined what is god. What are these two sutras? The first one says: ‘God is beyond time and space experience.’ The moment we say god is beyond time and space experience it is implied that you can’t define it. If the experience of god is subject to time, if the experience of god is subject to space then it can be defined. An object can be defined, an experience can be defined, an understanding can be defined. But the initial statement is ‘an experience beyond time and space’. Which means don’t bother talking about it, the experience of god is beyond time and space. It implies that mind cannot grasp or comprehend the strength of god, the energy of god, because it is not identifiable. Transcendental and omniscient, omnipotent and omnipresent. That is the first sutra.

The second sutra is: ‘If you believe in the nature of omniscience, if you believe in the nature of omnipotence, if you believe in the nature of omnipresence, then know that you are also god. If you feel that you are different to god then you can safely deny the omnipresence of god. Then you can safely deny the omnipotence of god. You can safely deny the omniscience of god.’ These are the only two sutras in the entire book of Patanjali. If yoga follows this system of thought, then god is only an experience of a transcendental awareness, of an awareness which is beyond the perception of human intelligence, beyond the perception of human emotion.

Can you define life? Is life experienced in this body because the body moves? Is life experienced in the mind because mind functions? Is life experienced because of emotions because they work, they attach themselves they detach themselves? Just as you cannot say life is this body or this mind or this emotion or this feeling or this experience, but coming together of all these various factors, in the same way you cannot define god. Bhakti yoga is not yoga of devotion leading to adoration of that idea or faith in a concept or belief in an existence. Rather it is purifying and sensitising of awareness. Purification and sensitivity of human awareness.

The yogic tradition says that in bhakti there are nine stages. Raja yoga has eight limbs Bhakti yoga has nine limbs. Raja yoga leads you from a correct attitude - yama, to samadhi. It is a mental experience, attitude to harmony. Bhakti yoga leads you from discovery of truth within to becoming one with the truth at the end. From the discovery of truth to becoming one with the truth, there are nine stages which deal with transformation of each level and each dimension of human experience and existence. Bhakti yoga is a process of meditation, beginning with analysis of the emotional association with the world of objects and then transferring that emotional association from object to this transcendental consciousness. So in Raja yoga there is awakening of mental potentials, in Bhakti yoga there is flowering of emotional potentials.

The third component which Paramahamsaji developed to enhance the faculties of hands, was Karma yoga. Karma yoga is a very peculiar concept. Those of you who have studied Bhagavad Gita would have come across this statement by Krishna: ‘the most difficult thing to do in the world is Karma yoga.’ Not only this statement but he even goes further in saying that ‘Karma yoga is a subject that has never been taught, and it cannot be taught and for the first time in history I am teaching you, Arjuna, how to practice Karma yoga.’ Read the chapter on Karma yoga. In the beginning is the statement of Krishna.

What is the meaning of Karma yoga? Everyone is subject to karma, cause and effect, action and reaction. Everyone is subject to the influences of these karmas. It is the influence of the karma which binds the person down to this material plane and does not allow the sublimation of energies, the sublimation of mind, just as the gravity of the earth holds us down. If there was no gravity we would be falling off, or floating away, similarly karma is the gravity of life. Karma holds together the human nature, the human personality, by following a simple method of cause and effect philosophy or belief or system. It is this karma which is the cause of bondage and it is karma which is the cause of freedom. It is the karma which is the cause of suffering and happiness in life. It is the karma which is the cause of freedom and transcendence in life. Karma yoga is a system which develops an awareness of the karmic theory - cause and effect. We perform karmas because we like it, we don’t perform karmas because we don’t like it. The karmas that we perform are physical which are subject to like and dislike.

There are karmas which are not subject to like and dislike of an individual but they happen spontaneously and naturally and they are the archetypes, they are the attractions, they are the magnets which hold together the various facets of our personality and give us a realisation that ‘I am a human being.’ They give us awareness of our individuality. They give us an understanding of our nature and personality. They create the archetypes which can either uplift us or subjugate us - control us. Therefore Karma yoga is the most difficult of yogas to perfect. It is easy to perfect Hatha yoga because it is physical. It is easy to perfect Raja yoga because, although the process is mental, we are dealing with something that is tangible; the thoughts, the ideas, the concepts, the attitudes. It is also easy to awaken kundalini through Kundalini yoga because it develops certain experiences within the body, which can be called and construed as psychic. But the hardest technique is to perfect Karma yoga, because it has to awaken - to evolve, an understanding of the karmic process which connects our life with the cosmic experience, which connects our life to instincts, which connects our life to positivity or negativity.

Today, thinking about it, I can definitely say that, yes, we have never perfected karma yoga and those who have are known as siddhas or enlightened beings. Those who have controlled and guided their karmas are the siddhas, the perfect beings. Those who have not yet done that but who are still working with the level of their mind and level of their emotions are only known as simple yogis. Yogi means somebody who is trying; yogi does not mean somebody who has perfected yoga. No. Yogi means somebody who is only trying. It is like saying that I am a student in my school, in my college, in my university. But when you come out of the college out of the university with a degree, then you are not a student any more you are a degree holder. You become a Doctor, you become a Batchelor of Science, you become a Batchelor of Arts. Becoming that is siddha, having attained perfection, having attained mastery. But in the process you are only a student, a yogi. Try becoming a yogi.

Paramahamsaji always felt that these three components of human life have to be integrated: head, heart and hands. The system which he developed is an ongoing process and to be very frank, I don’t think we have discovered yet the full potential of yoga. We are only experimenting with asana and pranayama and pratyahara and dharana. We only believe that selfless service is Karma yoga. We believe that repeating the mantra or singing of kirtan is Bhakti yoga. I would say we are still in the primary class of Satyananda University. We haven’t gone beyond that.

If we can understand these two concepts in relation to yoga we can move from primary to secondary class and we will be one step closer to realising our true potential. When we come one step closer to realising our true potential, we see the benefits of this realisation at all levels from physical to psychological to emotional to spiritual. It is easy to say balance and harmony and integration, but to actually experience that, let us ask this question to ourselves frankly. All the yoga teachers who are present here and who have practiced yoga for the last twenty years, thirty years. You have spoken about peace. You have spoken about integrity. You have spoken about balance. You have spoken about harmony. Have you felt it? One minute, not enough, not good enough. Two minutes, one day, not good enough. You know, it is like drinking a glass of water when you are thirsty, but not even drinking the full glass, only one sip, that has been our attainment. The cup runneth over but we have not drunk it. We have simply held it in our hands and brought it to our lips, but we have not yet taken that in. Once the first drop goes in, imagine yourself walking through the Great Australian Desert, even if one drop of water goes into your parched mouth, the joy and the happiness that you would feel would be immense. Definitely now it is time that we stop playing with yoga and seriously start to practice it.

Hari Om Tat Sat.


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