Yoga: a Cultural Revolution

Swami Yogasagar Saraswati

How many times must we make a resolve to change? When will we stand firm in our commitment, instead of wavering at the first difficulty? Is there no continuity of faith in ourselves or each other? Are we so fragile that we are victims of a limited belief? Every one of our fears, doubts and struggles of passion are reflections of an unstable mind.

A mind holding two opposing ideas is in conflict, and while we are in conflict we are undecided. We oscillate between yes and no, between power and love. I use these words to describe a definite quality of personality. Power represents a closed heart, full of greed, jealousy, control and fear of being disadvantaged. Love is service, a willingness to share and an openness of heart. Yes is confident, courageous and full of love, while No is denial, resistant and selfish.

Yoga is absolutely clear in both philosophy and practice that the aim is unity of mind. Every method and explanation of yoga is skilfully integrated to accomplish a harmonious existence. We have all experienced the extremes of success and failure, pain and pleasure, love and rejection. In this fabulous era of humanity, we have enormous experiences, freedom of sexuality, wealth and prosperity, education, etc. and still we are suffering from ill-health, broken hearts and mental anxiety. Our stress is due to the conflict within us. We are torn between our conflicting states of mind and we struggle with ourselves, our family, our faith and our life. But still, deep down inside, buried under our muddled thinking and wavering hearts, there is a part of us that is willing to try once more. Again and again we resolve.

We are inspired by the works of great souls, men and women who leave an impression of goodness and restore our faith in truth. But so often they are written into history as moments of inspiration, lost to the past, or they are misconstrued and perverted by politics and religion. There is a basic goodness in each and every one of us, like a tiny seed waiting to be nurtured into life. For some of us perhaps, the basic goodness is like a newborn child and we are like the awkward parents, infatuated and inexperienced. What we need is someone with knowledge and experience who can show us the way, to protect and nurture our basic goodness from the conflicts of existence.

Guru is the inspiring force and he is experienced in the arts of knowledge. Yoga is the dance, the way to live within this world. Yoga is the way to raise our basic goodness from infancy to maturity. Guru can teach us the method and show us how to walk the path, but it is up to us to practise the moves and learn how to dance.

In the beginning, self-discipline is developed through regular practice of hatha yoga, mantra, kriyas, satsang and other techniques. Through these methods a change in attitudes and lifestyle takes place and a new approach to living develops. Exercise of the body and mind is accomplished through the various techniques of yoga. Emphasis is on awareness, observing our behaviour, emotions and state of mind. Everything is experienced with awareness. Our sensitivity becomes more and more subtle. The guru has initiated in us a change of personality by teaching us the methods of yoga. He knows very well that all the practices of yoga, whether physical or esoteric, will definitely produce new experiences on all levels of our personality, physically, mentally and psychically. However, the only way to fine-tune our awareness so that we can see the interplay of our whole personality is through meditation.

Meditation is the way to self-realization and yoga is the path to meditation. When we practise the yoga of hatha, mantra, kriyas and kirtan then definitely we will undergo a great change. Evolution becomes a revolution. Yoga is for everyday people with everyday vices. It is a way to transform all of our habits and self-indulgences so that we can become extraordinary people. Yoga is a liberating force not a binding one. A yogic culture is a society of change and transformation.

Traditionally we would go to an ashram which is a place where a community of yogis live and cultivate an atmosphere of yoga. It is a place of sadhana and spiritual practice. In addition to the yoga techniques and meditation the basis of ashram life is karma yoga, the process of working together in an effort to face and transcend our impurities of individual personality. All the yoga techniques, combined with guru and his vision of active involvement in social service, are an integral part of ashram life.

Today there are ashrams to which we can and should retreat to as often as possible, but we can also begin to form yogic communities within the household life. Families living the yogic life can share with each other. Yogis, the people of yoga who are in business, the medical, scientific and artistic yogis from every walk of life can all collaborate together. We may meet in unexpected places or in ashrams or we may meet in a yoga class of which there are many available for everyone. If each one of us makes an effort to learn yoga, to open our lives, our work and our social life to yoga and begin to imbibe all aspects of our thinking and active living with a yogic approach then definitely a cultural revolution will emerge. “Your resolves will bear fruition.” We will all stand firm and a new world order of faith and trust will step into the 21st century.

A future of spiritual harmony, material prosperity and a respect for all living beings is assured under the unity of humanity in YOGA. “It is not a positive attitude that is necessary for yoga but it is yoga that is necessary for the development of a positive attitude.”