Reach Out

Swami Satyananda Saraswati

How should we set our aim or goal with regard to yoga after the completion of a course in the ashram?

After completing your course, the first purpose is to go back and teach yoga wherever you are or wherever you go. Teach yoga, talk about yoga to help others, talk to whoever you wish good health, and a happy and enlightened life. If they do not appreciate your words, do not get frustrated. Do not be afraid that they will criticize you. Just do your job. Whether the person is convinced or not is not your concern; your concern is to help people through yoga just as a doctor helps people with his medicine even if patients get annoyed or criticize him. The doctor continues to medicate, not for the greed of money, not for name and fame, but for the sake of the patient. Likewise, you have to teach yoga in order to help people overcome their pain and problems, whether physical, mental, emotional or psycho-emotional.

Yoga is only a means to reach people. It is only an excuse to be able to give, talk to people and bring them on the spiritual path. The purpose is not healing diabetes, sinusitis, sciatica or asthma. Those are just side effects. If you practise asana, an automatic reaction takes place in the body, mind and emotions, as the chemicals, the hormonal flow and brain hemispheres change. The whole environment in the psychic plane changes. This is an effect. You do not have to work for it. You only have to ensure that the sequence of the asana and pranayama is appropriate for the disease or problem.

If you take any five asanas, two pranayamas, one technique of relaxation, any technique of meditation or repetition of mantra, they will bring about an effect. They will influence the processes that take place in your psycho-emotional plane and thereby you will become healthier, happier and more enlightened. This is the purpose. The aim and purpose is to heal, help, to make people happy and bring them to a better path, a better way of living. The goal is to find and make everyone else find the path of higher seeking.

—Ganga Darshan, 8 March, 1981

What will the role of yoga teachers in the future be?

Yoga will be the nucleus of a coming civilization, and yoga teachers will have to play a very prominent part in that coming event. Yoga teachers are in no sense ordinary teachers.

In the past yoga has always been a philosophy that created geniuses, ideas, forms and expressions. In order to restructure the human body and mind, scientists have tried different methods right from the beginning of civilization, but they found that the science of tantra of which yoga is a branch, is the most powerful and most successful.

Unless you are able to liberate energy from matter, how can shakti be handled? The sukshma or subtle force in the human being is arrested in the gross body, the mind and the senses. This transcendental force known as atma or chaitanya shakti, is in eternal captivity. We can see and experience the body and the mind, the senses, thoughts and emotions in many ways – pain, pleasure, jealousy, dream, hallucination, but there is something other than this which most people have not been able to experience, but yogis have. Most people have not been able to experience that dimension which is the experience of skakti.

Yoga teachers, not only in India but everywhere in the world, must understand that they will have to manifest this shakti in their life through constant sadhana and thus become the nucleus of a common culture.

—Ganga Darshan, 20 April, 1980

Is it imperative that Sanskrit names be used for asanas when teaching in the West?

Sanskrit names should be used for teaching asanas in the West. We have regionalized a lot of things, let us not regionalize yoga. Let bhujangasana be known as bhujangasana in India, Germany, England, America, Greenland, Australia, China and Japan. Let it be an international word. Let us not try to find an English equivalent such as ‘serpent’s pose’. Etymologically, bhujangasana does not mean a serpent. It is said, “Bhujam angam bechati bhujanga.” It concerns the spine. Those who have a defective spine, like a slipped disc, etc. should practise bhujangasana. That is why the word is bhujangasana. If you say ‘serpent’s pose’, it doesn’t say anything because a serpent’s spinal cord is very small.

It is also important to know the names of asanas in Sanskrit because Sanskrit is not a syllabic language. It is a language where a letter is used because it means that. It is sarthak, that which has a meaning. Every letter is used for a particular purpose. I don’t want to go into the science of lexicology. Scholars have made a clear, distinct difference between Sanskrit and other languages. I am particular about it because there is at least one thing that has to become universal.

Everything is regional. Hinduism is limited, Islam is a pocket, Christianity is a pocket, Judaism is a pocket, Buddhism is a pocket, Zoroastrianism is a pocket. These pockets are not able to integrate with each other because they say the same thing in different languages. Due to the difference of language, the actual differences have come about. Those who have studied theology will agree that all religions talk of the same thing. However, as the languages in which these basic and fundamental things were said were different, different sects came up.

In technology and in yoga, technical terms should be used in the original language. How are you going to translate ‘antibiotic’ in Russian, Chinese or Hindi? You have to use the word ‘antibiotic’ in all these languages because it is a technical word of science. You should not interfere with science. If you interfere with science, it will also become religion. You will regionalize it. Then there will be the same differences, difficulties, problems and crises that are prevalent among religions today. Christians and Hindus say the same thing, but the words used are different. I worship Rama, you say you worship God. God and Rama are no different, but since these technical words have been regionalized, problems have come up, and I don’t want that to happen with yoga.

‘Yoga’ should be known as yoga, not ‘union’. ‘Samadhi’ must be known as samadhi, not ‘trance’, because there is no translation for samadhi. In Sufism they say ‘fana’, that is an exact word for samadhi, but in no other language is there a word that will correctly explain samadhi, nirvikalpa samadhi and savikalpa samadhi.

So, do not try to change the technical science of yoga. That would be the greatest mistake that mankind would make.

—Ganga Darshan, 25 February, 1986

I have been teaching yoga for more than a year now and recently lost my sense of confidence in this role. Can you make any suggestions?

Let me tell you something. From 1956 to 1964, when I used to teach yoga, sometimes I was the only person in the class. Nobody came. And if ten people came one day, they would become eight and then four in the subsequent days. I would ask myself, why is this happening? I am teaching yoga very satisfactorily, I know all the asanas and pranayamas, yet they don’t come. I thought, this is not going to work. This happened up to 1964, for eight years. There can be different reasons for losing confidence. I too lost confidence, not in myself but in the profession of teaching yoga.

Earlier, when I was in Rishikesh with Swami Sivananda, I was given the duty of teaching, but for twelve years nobody came to my class. All the visitors used to go to satsang and do kirtan, but nobody came to my class in the early morning. These things could have been enough to destroy my confidence, but they did not. I said no, there is something that I am missing out on. In 1964, the first thing that I did was, I stopped moving. I said, for a few years no going out. And from 1964 the stream of yoga teaching never stopped. The reason was that I became steady. And all along, I was trying to find out where the problem lay.

In the same way, when you say you are losing confidence you have to find out why. The question is why. Investigate. If you investigate properly, you will certainly discover the problem. Then, according to what you find, you should continue because this is a great service that you are doing to yourself. When you teach yoga you become more and more aware and more and more conscious, so you should continue.

—Ganga Darshan, 14 October, 1987