Laymen have very vague ideas on Yoga. But even you who are not laymen, will find it difficult to appreciate the obvious truth of what I am going to say now. It will uproot many of your pet theories on Yoga. What are these new ideas of mine? Firstly, no one need leave his home and go into oblivion to practice Yoga. It is about time that we scotched the belief that sannyasis only are fit to practice Yoga. Secondly, marital relations do not stand in the way of Yoga. Thirdly, meat eaters are not required to go all out for vegetarianism just because they have taken to Yoga. The real aim of Yoga is to attain peace and tranquillity within. For this you need not give up any of your normal way of living.
Let me put it more bluntly. Running away from life it not the way to deliverance. Sansar is not 'maya', illusion. It may be 'maya' to the philosopher, he lives in a world of imagination, his feet are not solidly on the ground. Yoga is different, it is practical. It has nothing to do with philosophic flights of fancy. Never believe for a moment that the householder's life is low and renunciation is superior. Let no women think that her status in life is inferior to that of man. Those who hold orthodox views are not fit to live in this world. This is not the sort of Yoga that we are out to propagate. We believe that Yoga has a special role to play in the world of today. It can remove our mental and physical afflictions. It can bring joy in our hearths and homes. The Yoga of our concept does not lay down extraordinary rules and regulation of self discipline and behaviour. You can continue enjoying good things of life and still be a Yogi.
One more idea that will give you a jolt, but I must remove the cobwebs of your mind, don't give up your worldly ambition, your material aspirations. If you do so, it will do you no good, it will bring harm to society and ruin our country. But don't become slaves of your desires. Be like the ocean which remains undisturbed as the turbulent rushing waters of rivers come to it. Enjoy sense gratification, but don't let them overpower you. Don't despise life. There is no virtue in retiring to a wood and sitting enchanted in the solitary of samadhi. Heroism lies in remaining steadfast in the tumult of life when scales are heavily loaded against you and attaining the samadhi of self equilibrium.
That physician who wants only healthy persons for his patients is no physician. Likewise, if Yoga could work its wonders on normal, healthy persons only, then the scope of Yoga becomes limited. If Yoga cannot bring back your resilience and vigour, then you have learnt Yoga in vain.
Your life is Karma Yoga. Sannyasis do not do karma and therefore they cannot realise the duties and obligations of house holders. Life for you, as worldly, family men is a continuous yajna. All your labours to keep your home fires burning, your activities to discharge your social and national obligation, are oblations. Once you understand this truth, you can keep undimmed your vision of Self-realisation in the midst of unremitting hard work that your station in life enjoins upon you.
But ceaseless activity, in the rough and tumble of life, takes its own toll. Anxieties, frustrations, exhaustion of mind and body, all these accelerate the aging process. Yoga is a powerful remedy against these forces of destruction. Why hug the belief that the road to Himalayas is the royal road that ends all your worldly troubles? The Gita does not teach you escapism. When the magic moment of his crowning achievement had arrived, Arjuna faltered and began to talk of sin and salvation and retreat to Himalayas. The Lord brought him back to sanity by preaching the excellence of Karma Yoga.
Do you wish to pursue the soul-lifting science of Yoga? If so, lifelong celibacy is not a sine qua non, not withstanding what our wise men of old have declared. Age does not come in your way. Whether you are on this threshold of life or whether the spring of youthfulness in you has yielded to venerableness of old age, you can learn Yoga. There are no limiting factors.
Yoga does not mean solely the Ashtanga yoga of our scriptures. Such simple practices as Likhit Japa, Nada Yoga, Tratak, Mantra Anusthan, are also Yoga. Karma Yoga, Bhakti Yoga, Jnana Yoga and Raja Yoga are all different facets of Yoga. Because music is an integral part of it Bhakti Yoga has a soothing effect on your bottled up and fevered mind. Trataka is a form of Pratyahara. But why go far? Life itself is Yoga. Religion is Yoga. Your day-to-day work is Yoga. The field is vast and inviting. Let the thrill and quiver of Yoga transform all your activities in life.
In the snares and pitfalls of life you cannot allow yourself to be divorced from reality. Satya, Ahimsa, Brahmacharya, etc. are wonderful words, but I have yet to see the individual who can claim that he has not departed one iota from their practice. Not even our greatest saints can lay such claim. Patanjali's yama and niyama were formulated for an age that is gone and done with, and the simple, adamantine fate is that they have no place in the world of today. In the good old days the very air that our ancestors breathed was full of these virtues. The vitiated air that we breathe now is full of falsehoods, violence and countless other imperfections. Admittedly Satya, Ahimsa, etc, are forces of great potency, but they are so only if one practices them to perfection in obedience to an inner compulsion. Yoga is not concerned with cultivation of impossible virtues. We leave them to moralists. Yoga is a system, a technique, for stilling the turbulence of mind, for harnessing it and maintaining its resilience. Aim at developing an integrated personality. The best way to achieve this is a synthesis of Bhakti, Karma, Jnana and Raja Yoga. Man should not be all intellect, he should not be all emotions. There should be a happy blending of both. Otherwise he will have no peace in life.
When I was in Swami Sivananda's Ashram, I kept no money on me or in my room. This, I thought, was Aparigraha. But Swamiji thought differently, he saw no harm in my keeping money and giving it away to whosoever needed it. The real meaning of Aparigraha than became clear to me. If you have money and can use it, when necessary, to help others, seeing no difference between man and man, then it is Aparigraha. What is the use of developing virtues in the solitary confinement of your room entirely for your own spiritual progress with no benefit to society as a whole? The basis of Hindu sadhana being individualistic, has done enough harm to our nation. If you practice Aparigraha in its strict scriptural sense, individually it may bring you spiritual gain but collectively it can only bring poverty and starvation for your entire family.
The householder takes one path and the sannyasi another. Paths differ, but the destination is the same. One has a small family, the other an infinitely large number as his family. Whether one is a householder or a sannyasi, a single test applies to both, how your siddhis will benefit others? Remember, any religion which aims at improvement of man in isolation, cannot be a good religion. Unless we make root and branch changes in our traditional concepts of Yoga we cannot fully bring the blessings of this wonderful science to humanity.
The word 'Yoga' is of great significance. It is derived from 'yuj' to 'unite'. It means 'rattan', union, identification. Identify yourself with the joy and sorrow of everyone, extend your horizons, rise above the pettiness of life. This is Yoga, if you take it in this sense it ceases to be individual. Mother and son have emotional identification. If son is unwell, mother does not feel well either. Another such relationship is that of husband and wife, if one is unhappy, the other is unhappy too. Have such emotional integration with all around you. That is the sort of Yoga Master Swami Sivananda taught me. He wanted me to identify myself with the mind of a thief, that of a liar, or one who spoke ill of me. “Put yourself into their position, that is how you can understand them.” This was his advice to me. If you can develop such an attitude in life, you are not very far from Yoga siddhi. To attain siddhi is easy, but to understand Yoga is very difficult.
It is my business to explain the meaning of Yoga to you and I will do so in a language that leaves no doubts in your minds. First of all, understand what it stands for. Yoga stands for your physical well being it stands for your mental well being. It comes as a blessing to suffering humanity as psychosomatic treatment, it comes as the shortest cut to God realisation for seekers of Truth. It does not stand for magic mongering or mystifying the unwary. Half-truths and untruths have been propagated in the name of Yoga and religion.
People have been taught to look down upon Grihasthashram, the life of householder, but my Guru, Swami Sivananda, was wont to give it a lofty status. He used to call it "Yogasharam". Householders are real Yogis. They have great duties and responsibilities. We sannyasi have kept ourselves away from the stormy seas of life, how can we treat Grihasthashram lightly? He used to say Grihasthashram is the crucible which burns the dross of past samskaras and tempers the still in you, so that your personality may blossom out in full fragrance. The householders life is a long, continuous sadhana, he has to stand firm and hold on to his duties, when storms and tempests of life try to sweep him off his feet.
Why should you consider your status in life less worthy than mine? You have the capacity to earn, to feed yourself and others, to acquire wealth and throw it away. I am a penniless, vagrant sadhu. I have nothing to give. I can only take. Like the wick in the lamp, you burn yourselves away, so that others may live. Those who say that Grihasthashram is inferior do not know what they are saying. They speak from a mental perch so remote that they cannot see the glory and grandeur of life around.
Having said so much in praise of Grihasthashram I must also tell you that it is up to you to uphold its sanctity. Live in the world but abjure all that is vulgar and petty. Perform all your actions in a spirit of detachment, that is how you can have renunciation in sansar. Strive for perfection in every action of yours, that will be the yoga of efficiency mentioned in the Gita.
People make high and noble resolves, they want self-realization, they wish to follow the great ideals of the Gita, but there is a catch, they have no will power. There is no progress, spiritual or material, without will power. So first of all increase your will power. Once you take a decision, stand by it right or wrong. See that you don't develop a split personality, show of will power in public, pandering to weaknesses in secrecy, a conflict between ego and super-ego.
In this Convention you have heard speeches by learned men on different aspects of Yoga. I have my own ideas on Yoga, they often differ widely from what has all along been taken for granted. I have put these convictions of mine before you. It would have been a denial of truth in me if I had not done so. I do not like borrowed ideas. I do not allow myself to be swept off my feet by other people's convictions. I do not believe in making prim and proper speeches, I have no time for goody-goody talks. What I have to say is with all the force at my command. I have a mission to fulfil.
A few more words and I shall have done. Do you enjoy happy, harmonious home life? Are you afire with enthusiasm in your day-to-day activities? When adverse circumstances squash and suppress you, do you rise above them with a cool head and easy assurance? If so, you are a Yogi.
Strive and put your house in order. Strive for the betterment of society. Strive, strive with every fibre of your being, for the welfare of humanity. Let caste, creed and sex be no barriers to you.
Hari Om Tat Sat!