Experience and Expression

Swami Niranjanananda Saraswati

The topic in Kolkata was how to experience and express yoga.

Everybody talks about 'Know yourself', yet that is only a philosophy, a theory. If you ask yourself, 'Who am I?' what will your answer be? Whatever your answer you will not be convinced by it and you will ask me, "Swamiji was that the right answer?"

The theory is to know yourself. This is the ancient concept of spirituality: atma deepo bhava – "To become a luminous self." How do you become a luminous self, how do you know yourself? Do you know yourself through reflection: Who am I? Am I this body? Am I the senses? Am I this mind? Am I this ego? Am I the spirit? That kind of reflection does not lead to any conclusion or solution. Even after twenty years of reflecting and thinking that 'I am the eternal spirit', you are still confined to the experiences of the gross body and not to the experience of the eternal spirit.

That philosophy, therefore, is useless since it only allows you to speculate and not to realize. There has to be a process by which you experience something, and after experiencing it expressing it. Experiencing, realizing, knowing is one aspect where one becomes fulfilled and after the personal fulfillment one is expressing, giving, sharing and helping others achieve the same fulfillment in their life. These two aspects have to go together: experience and expression.

People misunderstand yoga. They believe experience is the ultimate and expression is the normal behaviour of society, marital life, social life, or stressful life. Externally nothing changes. They live in society, their family, their environment and profession, yet internally they want to experience samadhi. They are only looking at the experience aspect and people have never looked at the expressive aspect, so even the search that people have in spiritual life is only a partial search: to experience something different to their normal condition or state.

Yoga provides the process of experiencing through hatha yoga, raja yoga, kriya yoga. Hatha yoga for annamaya kosha, pranamaya kosha; raja yoga for manomaya kosha, vijnanamaya kosha; and kriya yoga for anandamaya kosha. These are the three stages and when I use the word 'yoga' I do not mean general yoga but Satyananda Yoga, the teachings of Swami Sivananda and Swami Satyananda.

The sequence of hatha yoga, raja yoga, leading into kriya yoga is the experiential aspect. The expressive aspect is Swami Sivananda's 'serve, love, give': to serve is karma yoga; to love is bhakti yoga, and to give is jnana yoga. Without understanding, without knowing you cannot help anybody, you cannot give anything to anybody. Jnana, the awaking of awareness, perception, understanding and wisdom, leads to the nature of giving and sharing. Bhakti leads to the cultivation of the pure sentiment of love, union and oneness. Karma yoga is harmony of action, what you express. These three are the expressive yogas, while the previous three become the experiencing yogas.

The combination of the two aspects and the six yogas is what completes the cycle of human experience in this life. From this perspective yoga must be understood as a process that leads one through the experience of positive change and stability and allows one to express the creative and the harmonious.

—10 August 2014, Ganga Darshan, Munger