Swimming the Ocean: the Yoga of Navigation

Swami Ahimsadhara Saraswati, Australia

The whole of life is like a voyage across an ocean. The voyage is marked by changing conditions which must be navigated. We need understanding and resources to make this navigation as smooth as possible. We need wisdom and intuition to help us choose the best route as we progress on the journey. We need to know how to use our experiences as friends that help us rather than as burdens that drag us under. The navigation of that vast ocean is an art and a science. Like any art or science, the need for learning and creativity never stops.

Like any art or science, the quality of the foundation will determine the ongoing and ultimate level of mastery. And like any art or science the potential of the individual can be enhanced by working within a well developed system. Yoga is such a system. The foundation system needs to be so much vaster in resources than the needs of any single journey. To be useful, it must be so flexible and broad in its scope that it can be applied with equal effectiveness to the journey of each individual.

Yoga encompasses these qualities. Its origins in the earliest civilizations have been obscured by the ceaseless activity of humanity across the ages, but its values and value have survived in a continuum that is rare in this world. Detailed knowledge of its origins is not important, but the fact that yoga existed in some of the earliest known civilizations and has remained relevant and inspiring across so many changing times is testimony to its effectiveness as a system.

It is like a single thread which has been there all this time, for individuals and communities and cultures to pick up and weave with, according to their needs and inclinations. The thread is the same; the expression that comes through its use is infinite. It is like the raw material and the knowledge that goes into art, all rolled into one. The greatest of the artists that use this resource are the great teachers, sages, gurus and bhaktas. They are the masters who expand on the perfection that already exists, influence its spread and uptake, and the effectiveness of its continuity.

However, each practitioner also contributes to yoga, albeit on a small scale compared with the masters we hear about. The relationship between a practitioner and yoga is in both directions. As yoga gives to us, so we give to it. We bring out and develop aspects of yoga by both our individual and our mass interaction with it, and by our capacity to move and weave at a community level. With one eye on the personal journey, and one on the journey of the guru or master, yoga can be the stable boat that keeps us afloat on this great adventure across life’s tricky ocean.