When Arjuna stood on the battlefield with both armies positioned ready to begin the great war of the Mahabharata, he asked that his chariot be placed between the two armies in order to see his enemy clearly. At that point when Arjuna realised he would have to kill some of his closest relatives, a crisis developed within him. His mind became suspended, unable to decide, filled with uncertainty and emotion:
"Oh Krishna, my limbs fail me, my mouth is dry, my body quivers and my hair stands on end. The bow slips from my hand and my skin burns all over. I am unable to stand and my mind is whirling."
For Arjuna, this moment of high anxiety led to a change in thinking and a corresponding breakdown in body mechanisms caused by lack of discrimination. In the same way as Arjuna turned to Krishna for guidance in action, people in this age must tune themselves to their own underlying potential through the practical lessons of yoga. They must arm themselves properly to fight the many physical and mental ills that are interfering with their success in life.
Nowadays, man in general is living in an atmosphere of stress and anxiety. Students in college or school, politicians, managers, cultivators, housewives or even a man without a job face tensions, fears and competition day in and day out. They gradually mount up in a personality over a period of years until they reach a point of saturation. When our resistance to continued stress weakens, they explode like a bomb, resulting in such major disorders as high blood pressure, cerebral thrombosis, peptic ulcers, diabetes, allergies or even schizophrenia. These illnesses eventuate when a person does not recognise at an early stage the seriousness of the symptoms of stress-related diseases. This is definitely the case with most people working in the highly competitive business and industrial world.
On a mental level a state of continued tension definitely influences our behaviour, thought patterns, clarity of mind and capacity to make careful and quick decisions. Industrialists fail, politicians make mistakes, a warrior loses a battle or a man chooses the wrong career in life because of an error in judgement. This indicates the limited capacity of the mind to tackle the problems and decisions efficiently. In management and business, in whatever form it takes, both training and experience are undoubtedly necessary. But without a healthy body and a clear sharp mind these attributes cannot be properly utilised.
The very nature of professional work is conducive to stress. It requires concentrated mental effort combined with the ability to interact with other businessmen facing the same problems. These situations of stress cannot be avoided. They are part of living. But our reactions to them should be made with a balanced, calm and clear mind. In order to help alleviate the problems of our physical and mental disturbances and to open up the full creative potential of the mind we must turn to the ancient system of yoga and its neo-scientific concept.
For a yogi as well as a scientist, investigating the potential and secrets of yoga, the physical body is an element continually undergoing processes of transformation in its chemical, physical and biological structure. But what is the mind? Some people perceive it as merely a thinking machine or a feeling apparatus. According to the needs of the time we must understand that thoughts, emotions and feelings are not representative of the mind. The mind is not a biological reaction of the brain.
Yogic philosophy, and now scientific experiments have revealed that the mind is finer than electromagnetic waves, and more capable and far more subtle than the most powerful laser beams. The mind is composed of infinite experiences, energies, samskaras, karmas and hidden potential. I am talking about the spiritual nature of the mind, which has been completely neglected by our educational, political and religious institutions. They have somehow created a very unscientific impression of the mind as a socio-political product. Even deeper into the mind at its base is a higher dimension of existence known as atman.
A vast amount of research has been done in the area of mind exploration, particularly mental telepathy. One such experiment was conducted between two trained telepaths who practised transmitting thought waves over a distance of five feet. When they were able to receive and transmit the thought waves, the distance was slowly increased. In the course of time the distance between them was increased to 1600 miles with continued success. Finally they were confined to a copper Faraday's cage beneath the surface of the sea, to further test their sensitivity. This cage blocks out electromagnetic waves so that a transistor radio will not work inside. Even under these conditions the transmitter and the receiver of the thought continued their telepathic communication.
The mind is a very powerful unit that nature has installed in this physical body. It is made up of the subtlest elements of nature, composed of the three major gunas - sattva, rajas and tamas: the balanced, dynamic and dormant potential states respectively. The mind is greatly influenced by their interaction. Every action, thought and event is due to the interplay of the three gunas. When the state of sattva predominates the mind remains quiet and concentrated. It can function without disturbance. When rajas is predominant the mental energy is scattered and passions become powerful in the body. It is a very active state. When tamas predominates the mind is dull, inactive, tense and slow thinking.
Don't make the mistake of equating these states with ethical and moral philosophies by classifying one man as rajasic or another man as tamasic etc. The mind lives in and is influenced by all the three states or gunas together. Within each person there is a sattvic, rajasic and tamasic personality. By balancing the rajasic and tamasic tendencies within us we can awaken the sattvic state of being. Through the practices of yoga it is possible to awaken the dormant potential faculties of the mind, for man to evolve from the gross state to a higher subtle plane of consciousness. This was the ultimate purpose of the science of yoga, when it was invented by the rishis and seers, when it was propagated by their shishyas and passed on by tradition to the present day.
A merely philosophical definition of yoga is not enough. Yoga proper is a technical subject. It talks about the body and mind in anatomical and psychological terms. In hatha yoga we always talk about three important channels in the body known as ida, pingala and sushumna nadis. Pingala nadi is the carrier of pranic energy; ida nadi is the channel of mental energy, and sushumna nadi is the channel of spiritual consciousness, known as atman. They move within the framework of the spinal column in the form of a flow of energy which is not perceptible to the physical eyes, even after anatomical dissection.
Ida flows through the left nostril, pingala through the right. The temperature has been found to be less in ida. When ida is functioning, the right side of the brain is operating. When pingala is operating the left side of the brain is influenced. When sushumna is awakened the whole brain goes into operation. The flow of ida and pingala spreads throughout the entire body, controlling the different organs such as the kidneys, bladder, stomach, lungs, heart and endocrinal system. Certain organs are fed by ida, others by pingala and some by both. Through the network of these nadis, the body receives both pranic and mental energy. For total utilisation of the mind, the practices of hatha yoga aim to create a balance between ida and pingala, between the mental and pranic forces. When this happens, sushumna wakes up and the hidden potential of the mind is revealed.
The word 'hatha' itself is a composition of two syllables or bija mantras known as 'ham' and 'tham'. 'Ham' represents prana, the life force. 'Tham' represents chitta, the totality of the mind- conscious, subconscious and unconscious states. Thinking, learning, memory and reproduction are all activities of chitta. Prana and chitta are the responsible factors for our existence. Pranas feed the karmendriyas, the motor nerves. Chitta feeds the gyanindriyas, the sensory nervous system. If chitta is not operating properly you can't see, smell, hear, taste or feel. In the same way when the pranas withdraw from our body the means of expression are limited.
When the pranic energy, or flow in pingala, is predominant and chitta subservient, there is an unbalanced total concern for the external world. However this excess of prana is not powerful because one is not able to control it. In the same way, when chitta, or the flow of ida, is predominant, that person will think a lot, create fantasies and make great plans and programs, but he does not have the power to act. I know a man who wanted to become a chief engineer in a big nuclear plant, but is working as a civil engineer with the public works department. As a result he faces knowingly and unknowingly a sense of frustration which lies at the bottom of his personality, creating a great obstacle in the events and promises of his life. It hinders and interferes with his daily business affairs, affecting his behaviour and relationships with partners, directors, subordinates, family and friends.
To attain harmony and balance between these two great forces of a man's personality hatha yoga and dhyana yoga are taught.
For those people who tend to rely on their mental energy, especially professional businessmen, there is a very important point to note in relation to yoga. Every single thought, emotion, impulse and reaction influences the chemical secretions in the brain. These secretions are known as 'amrit' and 'vish' - nectar and poison. They regulate the body's anabolic and catabolic processes: the turnover, creation and destruction of cells and tissues in the body. Disturbances in the workings of this system can create such severe diseases as cancer.
Emotions, fears, jealousies, greed, anxiety and the uncertainties of life all exert an influence on the behaviour of the endocrine glands and their secretion of hormones. While certain hormones can kill you, stimulation of other hormones can help eliminate disease in one day. Imbalance can create cancer or cause cardiac breakdown. It can also relieve you immediately of the most massive heart attack. If the pituitary gland is disturbed in a certain way, then a hormone called prostaglandin may be continuously secreted by certain body tissues, and a woman will never have a child because prostaglandin kills the egg immediately before it is able to be fertilised.
With continued stress and strain the parasympathetic nervous system, ida nadi, will be obstructed with nervous energy. An imbalance will be created in the neuro-endocrine system due to the body's weakened reaction to prolonged stressful situations. One very common outcome of this blockage is diabetes. The crux of the problem is not in the pancreas as current medical science believes. It is in the behaviour of the parasympathetic nervous system which is a very complex reality. It has to be rendered free of the effects of prolonged stress by initiating a change in the upper parliament of the mind. Once the parasympathetic nervous system is rejuvenated and repaired, it will again ensure the secretion of insulin.
There is an enzyme termed urokinase secreted into the blood which can immediately resist the onset of a cardiac attack. Now if the body is not producing enough urokinase, particularly during the period of your life between fifty and sixty, in moments of high anxiety and fear due to taxation worries, management difficulties or the political situation of the country etc., the body will be unable to produce this hormone, the blood cells called platelets, will stick together and may result in a heart attack. In the same way there are other hormones which control the functions of the kidneys, pancreas, digestive and reproductive systems. Yoga never underestimates the role of hormones in the body. They are very powerful agents.
In yogic and tantric terminology the pituitary gland in the brain is known as sahasrara chakra. The pineal gland, situated directly behind the eyebrow centre in line with the top of the spinal cord is known as ajna chakra. The adrenal complex corresponds to manipura chakra, the thymus gland to anahata chakra. Below swadhisthana chakra are the gonads, sexual glands, testes and ovaries. These chakras control the different glands in the body. In modern physiology these vital centres are termed the sacral plexus, solar plexus, cardiac plexus and so on.
No matter who you are or how intelligent you may be, if you are not able to control the flow of energy in the ida and pingala nadis, the behavioural functions of the hormones, or the chemical secretions from the brain into the body, you are going to fall ill. The relief that medical science can give you will be very limited. For this reason the practices of hatha yoga are of primary importance because they render this physical body free of toxic elements and influence the vital psychic centres in man. A combination of hatha yoga and dhyana yoga offers a practical solution to the damaging effects of mental and physical disorders.
Every asana exerts a mild influence on the hormonal system by stirring the chakras slightly. Pranayama has a deeper influence. Just as a cigarette has a mild influence and ganja a more intense effect, so it is with asana and pranayama. Pranayama is a powerful tool. It acts like a bomb in transforming the human personality. The yoga shastras say pranayama is a means to control not only the prana, but also the chitta and the whole concept of time, space and objectivity. It is a system in which you extend the possibility of prana shakti into other spheres of your existence, beyond the waking, dreaming and sleeping dimensions.
Although the use of pranayama and asanas has become well known in all spheres of life, not only for businessmen, people don't understand how the chanting of 'Om' can influence their business relationships. I quote the example of a well known company in Germany. Whenever their board of directors gathered together for their meetings there were always major disagreements, conflicts and problems, ultimately ending in bitter relationships and lack of co-operation. As a solution they introduced certain practices of yoga into their program. Before the meeting began they extinguished their cigarettes and closed their eyes for five to ten minutes. First they chanted 'Om' several times together with long 'O' and short 'M', then they concentrated for another three to five minutes on the natural breath which flows continuously, singing the unheard mantra 'Soham'. After finishing this practice they began their business affairs. They found that this short and simple practice of yoga helped them not only in maintaining harmony and vitality in the meeting, but also to tackle the crucial problem?; of business in a very efficient way.
For Hindus 'Om' is a sacred mantra, but for scientists in the future generation 'Om' may become a powerful tonic for tuning the whole mind. In the Medical University of Barcelona, doctors have conducted research into the effects of 'Om' chanting on the brain. Men and women of all ages, executives, students, housewives and so on chanted 'Om' in a variety of ways. Short 'O' long 'M', long 'O' short 'M', equal 'O' equal 'M'. A very sophisticated polygraph machine including ECG, EEG, and GSR recorded the results, registering simultaneously hundreds of impulses taking place in the body, as well as alpha, beta, theta and delta waves.
Apart from changes recorded in different parts of the body, the most outstanding result was that the brainwaves alternated between alpha and theta. When 'O' was being pronounced alpha frequency was registered, and theta frequency when 'M' was chanted. A state of alpha intensity corresponds to a deep state of relaxation, and theta intensity represents a state of creativity and inspiration associated with states of meditation. Now the effect of these alternating waves in the brain is a state of dynamic tranquillity. On the other hand the state of relaxation normally experienced by an executive during a busy working day is one of passive tranquillity, when the mind feels lethargic and regresses back into a state of tamas. This dull state of relaxation can also be induced through the use of narcotics, tranquillisers, alcohol or fatigue.
As a human being living in this period of modern technology, you must pause for a while and become aware of a bright light on the horizon. You are at the cross-roads. You must decide whether your life will continue in the same rhythm as in the past or whether you will take a better, higher way of life through the practices of yoga.
In yoga we say to get up in the morning at four o'clock. Practise fifteen to twenty minutes of asanas, ten minutes of simple pranayama and fifteen minutes of dhyana yoga. In this way finish all your practices by six o'clock, and be ready for the day ahead. Not only is this a part of yogic discipline, but it should be an important discipline for any businessman, because he has to mobilise all his mental, emotional and psychic energies for managing the conflicts, worries, competition and financial problems that he faces daily.
Sometimes his spiritual energies are also needed, because without intuition you will not succeed in business affairs. Business is not only dependent on logic and mathematics. Although they play an important part they do not always work as well as intuition. These energies combined constitute a state of dynamic tranquillity. When the mind is made wholly dynamic through the practices of dhyana yoga it gives you excellent results. A concentrated, yet relaxed mind, can do the most intense work for long periods of time without tiring. It is less disturbed by both outer and inner distractions and able to remain focused on the work in hand. This one-pointedness renders the mind more powerful, it can act and think with greater force. The practice of dhyana yoga can also be done in the evening when you return home from work exhausted. Practise a meditative technique for ten to twenty minutes, not more, instead of reading the newspaper, turning on the television or relying on a cigarette. Please don't think that I am against all these things. Yoga does not disagree with smoking, because after all, Lord Shiva also did it! Yoga only questions man's dependence on it and its effectiveness in helping a person to permanently relieve tension.
Switch off the lights, sit down quietly for fifteen minutes and concentrate on the spontaneous natural breath which has been going on from the moment of birth, but without your awareness. This practice is known as ajapa japa, awareness of the natural breath combined with mantra. The mantra is the silent rhythm of 'Soham', heard within the sound of the breath. Follow it with every inspiration and expiration. Hear 'So' as you breathe in and 'Ham' as you breathe out. The daily practice of ajapa japa can make you feel refreshed and dynamic once again within a very short time.
Life as a sannyasin does not mean non-involvement with such activities as a businessman faces. Bihar School of Yoga has its wings all over the world. The work of spreading the mission of yoga involves the practicalities of life and business, finance, property, construction of buildings, institutions and constitutions, sannyasins and sannyasinis who are spread far and wide. Don't believe that I am a man without complications. Everything in life is not smooth, but the mind has to be smooth. Your way of thinking, your method of tackling the problems of life must be smooth. I have been able to involve myself in the activities of life both spiritual and institutional in such a way that the mind has remained in a very tranquil but dynamic state. I don't believe that you must stop thinking or you should punish the mind by imposing restrictions on it. Rather you must know how to think. The mind is your friend if it is properly tuned by the practices of yoga, but an undisciplined mind will be your enemy in life, A good car can still kill you if it is not serviced, maintained and driven by a careful and trained driver.
This mind is like an ocean. When the devas churned the ocean they extracted from it fourteen jewels. These jewels symbolise the positive and negative qualities of the mind. These two natural tendencies of the mind stand opposite each other in conflict. One is trying to balance the mind; the other is trying to distract the mind. We must utilise sushumna nadi as the base and churn the mind into awakening with the vast practices of dhyana yoga.
Let things come and learn how to manage with life. Pravritti marga is the life of involvement. Nivritti marga is the life of renunciation, of non-involvement. Everyone including sannyasins and children belongs to the path of pravritti. Now let us involve ourselves in the pravritti marga with a mind that is basically tuned by nivritti. In this way you will be able to handle the affairs of life so efficiently that you will succeed but will not suffer from coronary thrombosis, as is the unfortunate complaint of most successful businessmen in the world today.
You may fail in your enterprises, but everyone at some time has failed. Napoleon and Alexander failed; for Krishna the Mahabharata war was the great disappointment. Nevertheless failure should only affect one particular aspect of your life. It should not affect the totality of your personality. Why should failure disturb your digestion or your sleep? Why should failure change your attitude to your wife and children? Failure is failure. Accept it. A warrior like Arjuna had to carry a bow and arrow in his hand; a man in the battle of life must also carry a bow and arrow in the form of yoga. You are riding in the chariot which is the physical body. It is being driven by five horses- the senses. The chariot is being guided by the spirit or atman. Don't put down your bow. Yoga has to be heard and yoga has to be practised, not only in a hermitage, monastery or ashram but in the face of difficulties, conflicts and possible defeat.
You must understand and convince yourself of the great potential of yoga. A life of fulfilment backed by the power of yoga should be your conviction. You must say: 'I have heard about yoga and my ignorance has been dispelled. I have no further doubts about yoga in my mind.' As Arjuna said to Krishna: "Wherever is Krishna, the Lord of yoga, Wherever is Partha, the wielder of the bow, There are prosperity, victory, expansion and a sound policy. Such is my conviction." Bhagavad Gita 18:78
Life offers great possibilities. Each person has a duty to perform and we cannot remain inactive. The world has become aware of the great boons of yoga, irrespective of religious or national affiliations. This yoga had been lost for a very long time, but now it has arisen and is producing good teachers armed with complete knowledge of yoga therapy, yoga science, yoga psychology, yoga culture and yoga history.
Whatever their profession, in business, medicine, scientific research, education or family life, people all over the world have accepted yoga with open minds. They are learning it, practising it, propagating it and above all living it.
Yoga is going to be a mighty culture in the future world order, more powerful and more permanent than any socio-political creed.