Yoga of the 1980's

Swami Satyananda Saraswati

The spiritual quest - that is the most important thing, and that is going to be the yoga of the 1980's. Man has to find himself- all of you, and me too. We are far very from ourselves and that's the tragedy, that's the painful thing. Man has been able to discover matter, but he hasn't been able to discover the spirit. It is necessary to have thorough knowledge of matter, but matter alone does not give us everlasting life. Where do we stand? And where do we go? And why have we come? And why do we exist?

We have to give a solid purpose to our life. We don't just appear like plants and animals, without a mission. Every individual has a mission, a purpose. If he has no purpose, then the whole of creation and the whole of existence, all of philosophy and all religions are completely baseless and purposeless. By living life totally ignorant of your purpose, you are contradicting the religions; you are negating the philosophies. The means have become the purpose. Thus we have to reflect and question at least once a day, 'Why have I come? Why do I exist? What is my purpose? Am I only this much, or am I greater than what I appear to be? Am I the body? Am I this physical structure, or is there a greater reality that is within me? How am I going to attune myself?'

All of us will have to make a shift, from our original concept of yoga to the traditional and real concept. Yoga for beauty, that was the yoga of the 1970's. Yoga for trimming the body, that was the yoga of 1973. Yoga for the evolution of the entire mass of consciousness is the yoga of the 1980's. This is the most difficult thing I have to put before you. Yoga can make you wonderfully fit physically. With yoga you can control the hormonal actions and reactions in the body within a week, a month, maybe three months. But the yoga by which you see the inner life will take time, and you must prepare yourself for this experience through the practices. During this convention I will try my best to put before you a glimpse of those practices by which you will realize the substratum, the base of your existence, and these practices are known as yoga.

Yoga means meeting, or union. It is the state in which you unite, become one with, or attune to the real existence; and for this, the way is meditation. That is the express highway. You have red lights and green lights. Sometimes you move in first, second or third gear, often in reverse too; and you have the occasional accident.

The way is meditation - never forget it. Yoga is meditation and meditation is yoga. It is a point of experience, when everything becomes shoonya, all is withdrawn, as it is withdrawn every night during deep sleep. But the consciousness is awake inside; it is not asleep. It is not the 'I' that is awake inside, it is the consciousness without name, it is the consciousness without form, without dimension, without any definition, without any demarcation of mind, without any experience, and as I told you, meditation is the way. Every spiritual seeker, every devotee of yoga, every aspirant who is devoted to any spiritual path should not forget that meditation, dhyana yoga, is the way.

When cognition is extroverted you have perception; you see matter, you see the vast world with its names and forms in all its diversity, sometimes logical, sometimes illogical. When the perception is extroverted, you have the experience of that world, which is the world of names and forms, subject to changes, subject to actions and reactions, emotions and feeling. And it is the same perception which is still functioning when it is withdrawn from matter and fixed on an inner symbol, when the mind is comparatively tranquillized and the sensual activities are minimized, when the pranas function in balance, when the body becomes steady and awareness of the inner symbol becomes constant, and when meditation begins. That is the yoga of the 1980's.

Our purpose is to listen, to think, to learn the way of which each of us shall be able to withdraw ourselves to the innermost temple of our being, where a great power resides. Man is very powerful, his mind is very powerful; and more powerful than both his body and his mind is his spirit. Have you ever experienced it? It is a question you have to answer. You have experienced pain; you have experienced happiness, separation, love, hatred, jealousy, greed, and so forth. You have the experience of dreams. But have you the experience of the spirit? What is that experience? What is the spirit? What is the self? What is this atman? What is that higher state of consciousness, which is beyond this mind, which is beyond this body? And when you are there, then what happens? What is the difference between the experience of that state and this state?

Man has to know that the world and the unhappiness of the world cannot come to an end. So with all sincerity and with all my feelings I dedicate this day to the pledge, to the determination: that side by side with our daily life we will try our very utmost to attune ourselves to our real nature, to our real self; and that during this convention we shall try our level best to retain the spiritual meaning of yoga, and the sanctity which this word represents. I request all the speakers and all the practitioners not to degrade yoga from its real purpose. If you want to look beautiful, there are beauty salons. Please go there, don't come to the yoga ashram. If you want to trim your body, there are centres of physiotherapy and other places, please go there. But in the yoga ashram the evolution of consciousness must be the purpose of your visit. If you are not interested in the evolution of consciousness, then of course you should seek another place.

It is with this spirit that we have started many ashrams around the world, which are going to develop for all those spiritual seekers who will come to stay at them. Ashram life is very important. The expression of energy in the form of karma yoga is fundamental for spiritual enlightenment. Working out karma and the impurities of the mind is a very necessary part of spiritual practice. When you go to these ashrams and stay there for a week or two, you will have time to reflect, to participate, and to be one with the atmosphere. For meditation, as for anything else, it is very important that you have the right atmosphere, the right vibration. The spiritual vibrations, which are created in an ashram by the people who practice yoga there are helpful for the people who come after them. This magnetic influence, these vibrations must be maintained in a spiritual institution such as a yoga ashram.

And it should not function like a business. I quite understand that the exchange of money and so forth is necessary for the running of an institution, but that is not the purpose of an ashram. If yoga becomes a means of livelihood, then it is a profession; it is not a science, it cannot be. And when yoga becomes a profession, then it is just as bad or as good as any other profession.

Yoga has just one purpose, please remember, not two purposes; just one purpose - to deliver man from the pangs of difficulty. Therefore it is a liberating force, not a binding force. It liberates the mind from matter, and the spirit from the mind. In physics when you liberate energy from matter, an explosion of energy takes place. In the same way, the three elements: body, mind and spirit, which are completely fused together, have to be separated. The mind has to be separated from the body, and the spirit from the mind. When these three elements are separated from each other, that is liberation, that is moksha and that is nirvana. This separation takes place only in meditation, and nowhere else. If you want to separate mind from spirit, spirit from mind, mind from body and body from mind, you cannot do it intellectually. Philosophical and intellectual analysis is not enough.

In Samkhya philosophy, purusha and prakriti have to be separated. Matter is in energy and energy is in matter, and they are dormant. Consciousness and matter function together in us, and when they function together there is earthly experience, worldly experience; there is pain, duality, rebirth, karma; there is difficulty. By the process of meditation the two elements in our existence, consciousness and matter, are separated, and that is the sole purpose of yoga. I repeat again, when these three - matter, consciousness, energy - are separated from each other, that is moksha, nirvana, samadhi, shoonyata; that is the higher vision, and that has to be materialized. Meditation is the way, and it must emanate from the yoga of the 1980's.

On this day last year, the ninth of October, I was in South America for our convention in Bogotá, Colombia. Thereafter I toured the whole of South America, and everywhere I found people asking the same thing: 'How to know the self? How to achieve samadhi? How to have eternal communion? How to reach the temple?' These and many other questions those devoted Christians asked me time and time again. And not only in South America, not only in Australia or India, or in the Middle East, but people the whole world over including the East European countries are asking.

Mankind is just waiting; mankind is asking the way. The people of our century and of our decade have become conscious that they must know the man within the man, they must realize the mind behind the mind; they must experience the basis of experience. And there must come a time when all of us should be able to see what 'I am'. That is self-realization. Some call it God-realization; some call it samadhi; others call it moksha, nirvana or communion. Well, this is what all of us must aim towards.

Yoga is not Indian; yoga is an international subject of self-realization. Swami Niranjanananda, who is coming from Colombia, South America, has brought a documentary depicting the yogic civilization there in pre-colonial history. He has been searching through museums in Mexico and all over South America. He has taken nice slides, which show that thousands of years ago, before this present era in history, there was a yogic culture in South America and particularly in Colombia. You will be surprised to see statues three and four thousand years old of people practicing neti, dhauti, basti, nauli and so on. These statues will show you that when you are practicing asanas and pranayama, you are not practicing a science which is exclusively Indian. Yoga is the heritage of mankind.

Credit goes to India because she preserved yoga in spite of the accidents in history and the ravages of time. All over the world the science of yoga was destroyed completely; there was chaos. But in India the swamis and the sannyasins who wear this geru robe took a pledge, a sankalpa, that they would preserve yoga even if the people didn't want it. That is why this sect was created. This is not a Hindu sect; it is not a religious sect, and it is not an Indian sect. I myself am an Indian of course, because I must have some nationality, but I am not a Hindu; nor am I anti-Hindu. This is the tradition, which dedicated itself to the preservation of higher sciences, the science of yoga, the Samkhya philosophy. If political chaos sets in, we will manage to preserve it, because man must have this science. Otherwise, if at any time political chaos takes grip of a country, the whole structure of the country is destroyed along with the destruction of its spirituality. Therefore in India some wise people separated the swamis from society and said to them, 'Stay there, you good men. We will feed you, clothe you and sustain you. You must maintain and preserve the higher values of life. If ever in coming generations things are calm and smooth, then give it to the people.' For centuries and centuries this yoga was buried. It was in a state of complete decadence. Countries and cultures never knew what it was; history was completely ignorant of it. Suddenly a day came when there was administration, peace, law and order in the world, and we have come out. But if ever we find that people don't want yoga, you will no longer see this robe in society.

All people who wear this robe- whether householders, sannyasins or anyone- must remember that they carry a responsibility. They are not waving the flag of fanaticism, but bearing the responsibility to carry the higher spiritual values of life: love, unity, to be at peace with others and with oneself, to be non-aggressive, silent, humble, grand, noble. This is what you have to be. It is not a social order. Everyone who meditates, everyone who wants to attain samadhi or higher spiritual life can definitely adopt these values as a means and an aid to that. Therefore today we inaugurate this culture, this yogic philosophy, which is wanted the world over, as the yoga of the 1980's.

Now, this talk must come to an end. I am very happy to be with all of you. Everyone has been very kind to bring me here. In fact I was a bit reluctant at first to come so far, as I have a lot of work to do in India. But I have a very deep attachment for all people. I really love everyone very much, and I am sure that you also love me. I will be here for a few days more, and we will have classes on raja yoga, yoga nidra, prana vidya, kundalini yoga, meditation, and kirtan and bhajan singing also. Singing kirtan, the music, the sound, is a very important method by which the consciousness can be withdrawn from matter; so we will take it as an important part of the programme.