For the last two decades I have been spreading the message of yoga to every part of the world. The more people think about the role of yoga in the life of man's physical, mental and spiritual evolution, the more they are convinced about it. Decades ago people thought that yoga was a kind of black magic, or a type of supernatural acrobatics, which enabled one to chew glass and nails, walk on fire, and stick pins through the body. Therefore the world could not take advantage of this great science. In recent years, however, scientists, intellectuals, and scholars have been dedicating a lot of their energy to understand the deeper values of yoga in relation to human evolution.
In modern countries like America, Australia, Japan and Europe, also in India, teams of scientists, doctors and men of authority in psychology, have shed immense light on the science of yoga. They have come to a conclusion that the system of yoga is a great vehicle in the hands of humanity, through which man can accelerate his evolution, and at the same time, can transcend the frontiers of his consciousness.
If man can transcend the frontiers of his consciousness, life will take on new meaning for him. He will be able to perceive everything differently, and face individual, social and international problems with a new quality of consciousness. He will also be able to face the pains of the physical body in a new way.
The systems of yoga have lived through the accidents of history and the ravages of time. Due to man's inability to accept and emulate what is good for him, he has made mistakes. He has sacrificed the best of his principles in the fury of passion. This has happened in the world many times. With the disappearance of the Atlantis civilisation, yoga had to face a historical and unending crisis. For over 45,000 years, or even more, different countries were not in a position to patronise and save this great tradition. It was India that protected this science, and maintained the tradition of this knowledge without a break. In India, political situations did not destabilise this science; economic difficulties did not stand in the way; religious upheavals and cultural crises did not destroy this tradition. The Himalayas became the frontier, and Ganga became the channel of distribution of this science to the whole world.
Yoga has faced many crises since the break up of the Atlantis civilisation. For over 45,000 years, we tried our level best to give this precious knowledge of life and existence back to mankind. It was accepted by the people from time to time. But those of you who have studied history know that things did not fare very well.
In the last few decades, mankind has been faced with tremendous problems on physical, psychological and social planes. People tried method after method in search of some solution, but ultimately they came to this conclusion- that the root of the problem is somewhere else. If only mankind could defreeze the whole process of this existence and mind, he would know exactly where the pebble fell on the water. This process of de-freezing the entire consciousness, the whole existence that includes past, present and future - is yoga. It is only by this process that man will know where the pebble fell. Then he can successfully work out the solution to his problems.
We should understand yoga in relation to our personal evolution, and this is very important. When I went to the States in 1968, I met many scientists, and I told them, 'I am not here to teach physical culture or a science of breathing. I am not going to teach you a method of closing your eyes and mind so you transcend the tragedies and difficulties of life. No, I have found that the practices of yoga are absolutely scientific and they go much further than this, to the very base of man's existence on physical, mental and spiritual planes.'
I encourage people in different countries to conduct scientific investigations into the system of yoga. A great deal of research is being carried out on this subject, and today we have more than 1,000 research reports on the brain itself, and on the influence of yogic activity on the cerebral structure. In the last two years alone, more than 5,000 researches have been conducted in order to ascertain the influence of pranayama, pratyahara and meditation on the activity of the brain.
Is yoga merely a religious practice or is it more than that? Today scientists have proved that the science of yoga has far greater depth. It is not intellectual, it is basic and fundamental.
Why not step out of the frontiers of mind? Is this mind a final state of evolution? Is there no other area of consciousness that could function better and make more tangible decisions? How are you going to develop that structure of consciousness? Can consciousness only be developed by religious or intellectual means, or is it possible that man could transcend the limiting barriers of his personality by an independent method? Yes, science has an answer for this. Science has investigated the possibility of developing those silent areas of mind and brain. Those silent areas which relate to the evolution of kundalini, which relate to the evolution of a dynamic pattern of human consciousness, that does not merely depend on the knowledge derived by sensory channels. All along we have been taught that the brain can be trained via the medium of the senses, through the perceptions available and intelligible to the senses.
Yoga has a completely different theory altogether. Isolate the brain; isolate the consciousness; disconnect the pathways of sensory stimulation. The brain, the mind, the consciousness can function independently of sensory existence. Now we definitely do not know the way to do this. Therefore our knowledge depends on the information we get though the senses. Our perception, our cognition, our decisions, depend upon the area of sensory channels. But if we could isolate the brain, the consciousness and the mind, we would enter into a very dynamic and powerful state of understanding, of realisation. This is the point where yoga begins in life.
This yogic theory is based on the scientific principles of today. There are hundreds and thousands of archetype patterns in the brain. They are primitive, and basic, and they exist in human beings, in animals, and in the vegetable kingdom. These millions of archetypes have to be tamed and reorganised so that they have a positive and awakening influence on all of our actions, thoughts, decisions, feelings, and our awareness as a whole.
In yoga, these archetypes in the brain are known as mandalas. They are of particular geometric patterns and there is a definite possibility of reorganising them. By understanding and organising these geometrical mandalas which are in the constitution of your mind, languages can be easily learned, behaviour can be transformed, culture can be reconstituted, civilisation can be given a new turn of action.
Man has long been trying to transform his life. He has been trying to create a state of metamorphosis in his personality, but he has failed. In spite of his efforts for centuries and centuries to develop the intellectual processes, he has not found the way. The answer lies in the yogic practices and their influence on the patterns of the brain.
Pranayama is not just the science of breath. The practice of pranayama has a direct link, a direct effect on the most intricate and sophisticated functioning of the brain. Pranayama is the science of universal energy, of universal mind, of universal time, space and matter. That is the literal meaning of pranayama. Maybe in a few years the books on pranayama will be called 'The Science of Life Force'. It is not the air you breathe that constitutes pranayama, it is the vital, universal pranic energy which is present in man, which you will have to dynamize and redistribute. That is the science of pranayama.
Similarly, the yogasanas are not physical exercises, and they don't work on the human body as the physical exercises do. The impact of yoga postures on the human body is through a balance created in the nervous system, in the endocrine glands, and particularly in maintaining balance in the level of energy.
In yoga we do not consider the body as a bundle of gross matter. It is due to limited vision, to lack of knowledge, that we think of this body as a composition of blood, bone, marrow, flesh and mucus. We have to re-visualize the structure of the body, and realise it as the different patterns of energy coming together in a composite form. This physical body is a storehouse of vital and mental energy - prana and thought.
Energy is operating in two main areas. One area of energy is the mind. A thought is therefore not a psychological substance. An experience is not a psychological point. An emotion is not a psychological event. Thought, emotion, memory, feeling, love, hatred, compassion, passion- all these psychological behaviours are points of energy. The other area of energy is prana- the life, mobility, and existence of the physical body. These are the two active areas of energy recognised in the science of yoga which control all the mental and life functions. Besides these two, yoga recognises a third area of spiritual energy which is dormant in man's present existence with the exception of a few people. This third area controls all the higher functions of man.
Man should try to awaken this third area of energy. With its awakening, man will be able to transcend the frontiers of his limited existence. When this third area of energy explodes, time and space will come close and join matter. I'm talking about physics and yoga together. Time, space and matter will have to come together if a new evolution is to start in man's life. Therefore the postures that are related to yoga have a long story to tell as to how the whole metamorphosis has been taking place in the level of man's consciousness during the last few million years.
We are not talking about religion. We are talking about a microcosmic existence. How did evolution take place? How is man evolving, and in which way will he go in the future? We are aware of the theory of natural evolution of man- but why did it happen? What is this system? What have time and space to do with evolution? Are time and space qualities of the mind? If so, what is mind? Is mind a concept? That's the question.
Yoga has the last word on it. Individual mind is a concept, a hypothesis - there is no individual mind. Surely, the lights are burning in this hall, and the mike is functioning, but they are only a manifestation of electrical energy. They are not independent. In the same way, the individual mind is nothing but the universal mind. This universal mind is not a philosophical concept. It is something which we know. It is something which we are. It is something which we can handle. It is something within the reach of our human understanding and imagination. It is absolute existence. The practices of yoga develop the whole area of perception in this way. This is the fundamental basis of yogic philosophy.
Besides this the scientists have also made a very clear cut statement that yogasanas- postures, pranayama- breathing exercises, yoga nidra- relaxation, and dhyana- meditation, can be efficiently used for managing the day to day problems of man. With the establishment of the modern culture, we have been facing a number of incurable diseases and man has become totally dependent on drugs and external remedies. Is there a way out through yoga? Recent research into the effects of yoga on various body organs and on the diseases of body and mind, shows that yoga is definitely a better way to gain and maintain mental and physical health.
The first real scientific research was carried out in the early 1900's by Therese Brosse, a French cardiologist who came to India and measured the various physiological functions of yogis. She even recorded a yogi stopping his heartbeat. This was a fantastic observation, for it revealed that yogis have tremendous control over their body, mind and autonomic nervous system. Such early reports stimulated a great deal of research on asanas, pranayama, meditation, prana, consciousness, kriya yoga and the vast assembly of yogic techniques. To aid research, various devices were created to photograph prana and measure the activity of kundalini.
For many years I have personally involved myself in yogic research. One important project which I inspired was carried out by a Polish team who investigated the effects of sirshasana on the physical body. They found that, although the breath rate, and consequently the amount of air taken into the body, was greatly decreased, oxygen consumption by the tissues was 33% higher than normal. This increase in oxygen consumption indicates that sirshasana speeds up the metabolism. Therefore this practice is a great boon for people who have sluggish systems and for anyone who wants to maintain good health. Sirshasana aids in elimination, and in regulating the hormonal levels, particularly the genito-ovarian system, and revitalises the heart and circulatory system. This is just a glimpse, many more things are being done around the world.
In the past, doctors and scientists used to say: 'Yoga talks about the awakening of kundalini; it talks about ida, pingala and sushumna nadis and the psychic centres in the physical body. We have witnessed many operations but we have never seen these things.' The only reply I could give them at that time was: 'Can you show me the sound waves in a transistor radio? I have opened up a transistor radio but I never found the BBC there.' This answered their question, but it didn't really satisfy them. Scientists want a scientific explanation and for this new areas of research are now being developed.
Dr Horisha Motoyama, head of the Institute of Religion and Parapsychology in Japan, has invented sensitive machines for measuring the vital energy of the body. The first is an apparatus for measuring the function of the nadis (meridians of acupuncture) and their corresponding body organs. He has taken readings for more than 2,000 people so as to calculate normal values. He is able to use this machine to diagnose disease tendencies before they actually manifest, allowing people to take the necessary steps to avoid the disease. A number of hospitals in Japan are beginning to use this machine to screen patients, and they are comparing the results with other biochemical investigations.
Dr Motoyama has also invented a 'chakra machine' which records the impulses emanating from the psychic centres in the spinal cord. He has shown that it is possible to register definite impulses from these areas in individuals who have been practising yoga for many years, and who have awakened their psychic faculties. For example, when a subject practises pranayama with retention of the breath while performing maha bandha, contraction of the perineum, abdomen and thyroid, the machine registers changes in the impulses emanating from the psychic centres. His research showed that energy was being activated by the yogic practices. The most important centre, known as mooladhara chakra, at the base of the spine, has to be awakened. Then energy flows to the highest brain centres, and the brain starts functioning on resonant waves.
So yoga is not a para-science but a definite science which we have to work out in a most sincere, honest and diligent way. This is just the beginning of the beginning. We have to work hard in order to find out exactly what happens when yoga is practised. If yoga is just a myth or a type of occultism then we don't need it. We have had plenty of occultism and black magic in every religion. But if yoga is a concrete, tangible and interpretable science like mathematics, if it has any logic in it, then there is no reason why we should not accept it, practise it, preach it and do whatever we can to help it reach more and more people, so that they can understand it fully and practise it in their daily lives.
Over the years I have traveled very far, and have studied the history of yoga in museums, cultures, languages, scriptures, and in people. I am not an institutionalist. I don't live for an organisation. I have only two things in my mind- yoga, and the evolution of man. The quality of man's mind and body must change. He must go through a process of metamorphosis. There is no point in remaining where we are. We must all begin to set the process of evolution into action by practising yoga.
When you see sannyasins like myself, you may think by virtue of your association, that we are monks, but we are people with two hands and two feet. We think, and we have our own values, though they may not be the same as yours. For us the most important thing is to keep moving in the internal life. So whenever you see sannyasins, please remember that we represent only yoga, not a religion, a culture, a civilisation, a cult or an order. We don't belong to any organisation. or institution, and because we are not bound to anything, we have been able to protect yoga from political upheavals. I say all this because many people think that we are preachers of a religion or cult, and I want those who have this opinion to please correct it. We are the last people to do this. For us yoga is a science of life, yoga is the panacea. The science of asanas, pranayama, relaxation and meditation - that's called yoga. The hatha yoga principles, the raja yoga and the dhyana yoga principles are yoga.
Throughout history man has made many errors, but a solution has always appeared. We can never say that we have not made errors and that we are not making them now. Man lives by mistakes; that is how he progresses. In this century we are faced with our mistakes and we are confronted with a decision. We are at the cross-roads and we have to decide which way we are going to go. Will we continue along the same route, or will we take a new direction? Will we put an end to our problems, or will we go on endlessly creating more and more?
I have made the decision to live in this world and re-establish the system of yoga with all sincerity and honesty. I live in many forms. I live in many countries. I live in France. I live in England. I live in Spain. I live in Denmark. I live in Greece. I live in Australia. I live in almost all Latin American countries. Why don't I live in your country also?
In hatha yoga it says that man has to go through 84,000 incarnations to attain liberation. In answer to this the rishis gave 84,000 asanas to enable man to pass through all the stages of evolution in one life time. Would you please give your comments on this?
The rishis have said that there are 8.4 million embryos. Ant has an embryo, frog has an embryo, every animal has an embryo through which to create. This means that the individual consciousness has passed through 8.4 million embryos in the course of evolution and therefore, there are 8.4 million postures, each one representing one stage of evolution.
Out of these 8.4 million postures, 84,000 postures were known. Out of these 84 were considered to be the most important, and these 84 postures are known as the asanas. Asana does not mean yoga exercise, asana means posture. The position of the body is known as posture, and we have all assumed different postures in our various incarnations.
After assuming human birth the physical evolution comes to an end, and spiritual evolution begins. Thus man will always be born as a human being but he will be born as a different kind of human being with higher and higher spiritual awareness. When the individual being has assumed human birth, then his evolution continues on the level of senses, mind, intellect, emotion, chitta, and on the level of self.
Biological evolution of the individual self is controlled by the laws of nature because animals, including man, have no control over their biological laws. But when you are born as a human being and you have been given a mind, then you have control over your spiritual evolution. This means that man does not have to wait anymore at nature's grace; he can complete his evolution in one lifetime if he chooses to. A dog, an ant, an elephant, a wolf, a horse, have to wait, but not man.
With the evolution of man, a special thing has emerged, and that is called awareness of his own self in relation to time and space. When you are frightened you know that you are frightened and you know that you know that you are frightened. This self-awareness, called gyanam in Sanskrit, is exclusive to man. Man can think, he knows he is thinking, and he knows that he knows he is thinking. A monkey also thinks sometimes, but it does not know that it thinks. Gyanam has to be developed more and more. As well as being aware that you are thinking, seeing, or walking, you should also know that there is something beyond this. Animals do not believe in god, nor do some people, but there is a difference. A man knows that he doesn't believe, he knows why he doesn't believe, and he tries to discover what is the truth. So you see that the birth of a human being is so precious and so important. As well as fulfilling the conditions of the physical body, we also have to make proper use of this facility called gyanam.
According to the rishis, human birth is the final and the last. They also say this is our greatest opportunity and if we utilise gyanam we can evolve very fast, maybe in one lifetime. So we don't have to worry about the 8.4 million steps, we are in the last year of the university.
Why should we speed up the process or evolution by practising yoga? Isn't this going against nature's way?
Nature's laws are flexible. Nature is not a military dictator. Nature has certain laws and you can participate in those laws. You can accelerate the speed of your evolution according to the laws of nature. You are not opposing them by participating in them. For instance, say you have a 60 or 100 watt bulb but you want more light, what do you do? You take a holder, adapt it, and then bring the cable. But if you have a very big machinery plant which requires 3 kilowatts of energy and you connect it with that, all the lines will get fused. So opposing the laws of nature is not good, but you can participate in these laws.
Nature has the possibility of acceleration within its system. An example of accelerating the laws of nature is the conversion of uranium into nuclear energy. Before uranium is converted into nuclear energy, it has to fulfil so many conditions of transformation. If you know what those conditions are, uranium can be immediately turned into nuclear energy. Uranium is matter. It has within itself the nucleus of potential energy. It is a type of proto-matter. It has space and time, plus and minus energy. In the centre is the nucleus, what we call matter. Now even if you do not produce nuclear energy from the uranium, during the course of two or three billion years this uranium will naturally begin to radiate nuclear energy. However, if the process which ordinarily takes place in uranium matter over three billion years is known by man, then he can accelerate it. This is not opposing nature, it is only exploiting the laws of nature. Similarly, practising yoga is not opposing nature, but exploiting and utilising the natural laws. Allowing evolution to go along at its natural speed is ignorance of these laws.
If we become aware that certain individuals or certain philosophies are blocking the evolutionary plan, have we a duty to remove these, even if it requires political force?
The course of history throughout the ages has shown that no political force has ever been able to change man. Millions have died in religious wars but nothing was changed. Even after the victors established their religion there was never any certainty that it would survive after 50 years, either externally, or in the hearts of the people. There are millions of Hindus today who are not Hindu at heart. There are millions of Christians who are not Christian by faith and belief. There are millions of Muslims who are only Muslim because of fear. So political force is no solution to man's problems.
At the same time there is another point to consider, and that is- nobody really knows the evolutionary plan. We talk about it but we don't know what it is because our vision is very narrow. Danish people can only see Denmark. Indian people can only see India. Christians can only see Christianity and Muslims can only see Islam. All say that they know God's plan but none can accept another's version of it.
Therefore, those of us who have studied history have become very doubtful about these great planners, and we only talk of the individual evolutionary plan. You and I grow individually and like this, if spiritual growth takes place within a few thousand people all around the world, they will create a nucleus. Out of these few thousand people, perhaps one might know the laws of the complete evolutionary plan.
I have read all the contemporary spiritual literature as well as the fundamental books on religion. But I don't think they contain the solution to the problem. Individuals must speed up their spiritual life, that's important. Nature's plan is versatile. A garden has versatility- there are mangos, peaches, apricots, roses- everything is there. In nature's creation there is a weak lamb and the powerful tiger. If we know the nature of creation and the laws that govern the evolution of creation, then perhaps we can help different individuals to evolve.
What is your interpretation of kali yuga?
In the last few years I have traveled all over the world and I know what people are thinking. I have witnessed the resurgence of man's long awaited spiritual aspirations. So let us talk about kali yuga in this light.
I don't believe that man has degenerated or that this is the last chapter of man's history. Man is evolving, and during the course of this evolution much confusion has taken place. The great mess which people are aware of is not due to degeneration; it is due to the process of cleansing the whole structure of man. In my view kali yuga is the age of yoga and inner spiritual evolution.
For many, many centuries man has been influenced by tradition and cults led by very powerful people. But in this century he has come out and is discovering his own self. People of all ages are trying to discover their own nucleus. We don't belong to the age when thousands of people were declared to belong to a certain religion which they may not have understood or wanted. Knowledge has to be discovered, it can't be given in charity. If you don't seek it, you won't find it. Even if I make you a swami, you won't become one unless you really want it.
Is there a relationship between the so called age of Aquarius and the kali yuga?
Yes, there is an absolute relationship. We have entered into the age of Aquarius. No matter how you live or which religion you belong to, irrespective of your country, culture and civilisation, of your age and sex, man is going to think about something beyond this body. He has already started questioning it. There was a time when scientists were not prepared to accept anything beyond this biological structure, but today we are being forced to think beyond these limitations. People used to believe that thought was a product of the brain, and now we know that the mind and brain are different.
As we proceed, we must allow the spiritual philosophy to exist side by side with the materialistic philosophy. In the age of Aquarius, as it is known, man will respect both states of existence. There have been times when he has only emphasised spiritual life and has ignored the material aspects, whereas in this last century man has forgotten spiritual life and has placed the emphasis on the material world. But in the last lap of this century and at the outset of the next, we will see man trying to bring them parallel with each other. I believe matter and spirit - material advancement and spiritual awakening are both necessary for integral evolution.
Is there an end to human development or evolution?
Human evolution is infinite, like a circle. Is there an end to a circle? Itzak Bentov, a scientist who was behind many new and revolutionary discoveries, wrote a book called 'Riding the Wild Pendulum'. In it he agrees completely with this concept. At the ultimate point of evolution, one individual goes out of the structure and becomes the creator. Such individuals are called the junior creators. Gurus are junior creators. When their evolution has reached a certain point they come out. This is also how evolution is taking place in the material universe. When the energy revolves, at a particular point of evolution, it issues forth and becomes another creative energy. We call it co-creator energy. This is the theory of avatars and gurus.
There are many mysteries in this life and our generation is not going to unveil them all. We must first develop proper channels of expression to reveal the mysteries, and increased capacity to understand them.