Reach Within to Embrace Humanity

Swami Suryaprakash Saraswati, Rotary International Annual District Awards Function

The theme ‘Reach Within to Embrace Humanity' that was chosen by Rotary International for the year 2012 actually describes the essence of the teachings of yoga.

Swami Sivananda, the paramguru of our tradition, said that as individuals we are comprised of the dimensions of head, heart and hands. Our individuality, personality and character are nothing but a composition of the faculties of head, heart and hands.

Head represents the ability to think, the intellect, buddhi, analyzing, understanding, rationalization and mental processes. The heart represents the sentiments, emotions and feelings that we experience and express in life. The hands represent the ability to perform and attain excellence in whatever we do.

The aim of yoga is to integrate and optimize the functions and the performance of the head, heart and hands. Therefore, as human beings, as individuals, our expression in life is a multidimensional expression and the three dimensions have to be developed to the peak of their potential. If one dimension is underdeveloped, the whole system fails. Just like in a factory or company, there is a chain of events that defines the efficiency of the company. If one step is missed, if there is a deficiency at any given point in the chain, the whole system collapses. In the same way, our personality is comprised of certain systems and faculties.

Yoga discipline

Since ancient times, gurus, saints, rishis and masters of diverse spiritual traditions have said that life has to be lived to serve others. One must sacrifice and work for the upliftment of society and the community.

Yoga is composed of many branches that cater to the development of the various dimensions of our being. The physical practices come under the branch of hatha yoga, which aims at harmonizing the mental and physical energies. Bhakti yoga is the yoga of emotional management. Karma yoga is the yoga of attaining excellence in performance. Raja yoga is the yoga of mind management. Each branch of yoga has a specific structure and system that must be followed in order to awaken the inherent potentials within.

At present we are using less than ten percent of our total potential, but if we are able to attain this much with only ten percent, what would be the state of twenty or forty percent. The so-called luminaries and enlightened beings are the people, who through a process of self-development, have managed to awaken one hundred percent of their potential.

Question and answer

One day, while undergoing intense training, Swami Niranjanananda approached his guru, Swami Satyananda Saraswati, and asked, "If according to the masters and scriptures the aim of spiritual life is to serve other people, then why do we practise yoga? Everything we do in yoga is selfish. If we improve our concentration, it is our own concentration which is improved. If we awaken our dormant energies, it is our own energies that are awakened. If we improve our health, it is our own health. Whether it is mental balance, health, concentration, performance or management of sentiments, it is all directed towards ourselves. Why is the process of yoga so selfish when we are told to reach out to humanity?"

Swami Satyananda gave a beautiful answer, "It is true that whatever one does in yoga up to a certain point is for self-development. However, the attainments of those developments do not belong to the practitioner. They belong to others and they are to be shared for the upliftment of others."

Nature's example

This holds true in every scheme of creation. A plant has to go through a process of growth and development until it becomes a huge tree, under whose shelter people may gather. A tree does not enjoy its own shelter; the shelter of trees is for others. A tree does not eat its own fruits; the fruits or the attainments of the tree are for others. Flowers do not enjoy their beauty, it is for others to enjoy. In the scheme of creation, perhaps only human beings are endowed with selfishness. This attitude has to change. The awakening has to take place that one should learn how to live for others.

‘Reach within', the first part of the theme, represents the process of development that we must go through to come to a certain point of excellence in our lives. ‘To embrace humanity' represents the change of attitude that must take place in order to use those attainments for the upliftment of others.

—19 June 2011, Bokaro, Jharkhand