Keeping the Spirit of Yoga Alive

Swami Niranjanananda Saraswati

How can we keep the spirit of yoga alive when we are isolated from the source?

There are no guidelines or written instructions that say, “This is how you keep the spirit of yoga alive,” but an understanding of yoga will give you the answer. This understanding has to evolve from your own sadhana, determination and conviction.

Ultimately yoga is a spiritual process. You begin physically by practising asana, pranayama and meditation, but ultimately you discover that yoga is a spiritual process. In that process, certain understandings come naturally; letting go of the samskaras, inhibitions and attachments which are selfishly oriented, materialistic and which bind you to a tamasic, stagnant, lethargic plane, where you do not wish to change yourself, yet aspire for something beautiful to happen.

One's attitude changes naturally through the practice of yoga, sadhana, mantra and meditation. It changes through a relationship you can develop with your guru, your teacher, and with your guru brothers and sisters, through a positive, creative relationship that you can develop within the family, with your children, wife or husband.

As you become more positive in life, you also discover that you come closer to the source. If you are negative, fanatical and hysterical, if you are confined to your own thoughts and your mind is not open, then the sense of isolation will be very strong. A natural transformation happens when you become one with the idea and being of either the guru or the yoga practice, the yoga spirit.

So, it is not a question of what guidelines you should follow to keep the spirit of yoga alive. Eventually it all comes down to your personal effort to experience and transform yourself, to become more positive, constructive and creative in life. The moment you can do this, you experience that spirit, whether it is God, yoga or guru, because ultimately they mean the same thing. It is the discovery of yourself that is the aim and the spirit of yoga.

Some guidelines might come naturally and spontaneously through your interaction and communication with the guru. That is a different matter, but it is not the final thing, because whatever instruction a guru can give you will depend on your particular frame of mind while you are asking for guidance. If you are feeling depressed and you ask your guru or teacher how to overcome the depression, then he or she will guide you according to the situation affecting your nature at present. So, even the interaction and communication with the guru is not a permanent solution to keep alive the spirit of yoga, because he or she will interact with us according to our need and level.

Our levels are superficial because we are constantly trying to please ourselves. We also want the guru to give us certain instructions that are compatible with our aspirations, ambitions, desires, likes and dislikes. If I ask my guru whether I can eat a pizza and he says no, I will begin to wonder why, when pizza is readily available. Pizza is only an example, but in life it happens in this way.

So, even gurus don't give clear answers. They remain very ambiguous because they know you are not going to follow their instructions. They confine themselves to telling you which meditation or asana or pranayama to practise. The right instructions come only when you are open to receive, when you have trust and faith, commitment to yourself and to the concept that the guru stands for.

Therefore, it is said that discipleship is a very difficult path. Everybody wants to become a guru, but very few want to become disciples. You have to look at the positive aspect of your existence in order to keep the spirit of yoga alive. Then you will find that spirit.

Australia, October 1996