Antaranga Yoga

Swami Niranjanananda Saraswati

The Yoga Chakra or Wheel of Yoga consists of six branches of yoga. Hatha, raja and kriya yoga are the external practices and disciplines, the bahiranga yoga. Karma, jnana and bhakti yoga are the inner yoga, the antaranga yoga

Karma yoga

Karma yoga is not just working without expectation as defined in the scriptures. Karma yoga is one's involvement to create a beautiful effect in one's life. Karma yoga is a process of cultivating the garden of life and a yogi is always a gardener. People say a yogi is a warrior. Movies have come out such as 'Spiritual Warrior'. That is not the correct idea, for after all a warrior attains victory after a lot of death, destruction and spilling of blood. In that victory there is no happiness and no peace.

A gardener who can work the barren piece of land and convert it into a most beautiful garden is the person who succeeds in life. Therefore, I suggest, "Don't try to become a warrior and fight with yourself; try to become a gardener and plant the seeds of good intention, good samskara, good thought and good behaviour in your life." Ultimately this will carry one through on the road of success, peace and prosperity. If one is not able to cultivate the positive in life, the negative will pull one back. The positive propels one forward, the negative holds one back. It restricts the onward journey.

The concept of karma yoga according to yoga is that one's expressions have to be harmonious. One's expression, performance and action have to lead one to the attainment of success, peace and prosperity. Actions can take one to prosperity, yet if there is no peace one will not be satisfied even in prosperity. Actions should lead one to prosperity and peace, together and at the same time. If one is only seeking prosperity in life and not peace, one will always have tension. If one is only seeking peace in life, there won't be enough in the pocket. It is as simple as that.

There has to be balance, and karma yoga allows one to achieve this balance. Right performance gives one 'wisdom full' action. Prosperity and peace are attained through action and that is the idea of karma yoga.

Jnana yoga

The second component of antaranga yoga is jnana yoga. It should not be seen from a philosophical perspective, asking oneself the question, 'Who am I?' Jnana yoga should be understood in practical terms.

The best quality one should cultivate in this life is understanding. Not love, not sympathy, not cooperation, only understanding, samajh. With understanding there can be no problem between two people. It is lack of understanding which creates problems: I do not understand you, you do not understand me, we come to loggerheads. However, if I understand you and you understand me, there is cooperation, sympathy, closeness and strength.

Therefore in the beginning, one should not search for love, compassion or kindness, but for a better understanding of oneself and other people. Then through understanding one can connect to help others in an appropriate manner. That is jnana yoga.

People think jnana is knowledge of the divine, the transcendental. According to yoga, jnana is the knowledge that uplifts. Every kind of knowledge uplifts a person. After all, when one becomes an engineer, a doctor, a professional person, then it is that knowledge which helps one to excel and succeed in life. If one did not have that knowledge, one would not excel or succeed. Just as material knowledge becomes the means to prosperity for a human being, in the same manner spiritual knowledge becomes the means to develop a better personality, character and nature.

This has been the statement of the gurus of every tradition throughout the ages: try to develop understanding, try to develop your role in life and try to connect with other people.

Sri Swami Satyananda spent his last years in seclusion, in sadhana. He would meet people maybe once or twice a year during major events. Then he used to say, "I'm not seeking emancipation or liberation. I have only one desire: I want to be born again and again to wipe the tears of suffering and unhappiness from the eyes of people. The work of my life will be over when I can ensure that there are no tears of suffering in the eyes of people, but the joy of confidence and attainment."

This was his statement and he said, "I'm waiting to leave my body. I have received a one-way ticket, but I don't want a one-way ticket. I want a return ticket. The day I get my return ticket confirmed, I will leave this place to come back again, because I don't want emancipation."

And this is what he did. One day, a bolt from the blue. Ten o'clock at night in perfect health he calls one swami and says, "I am leaving my body now. I am leaving my body now." And he sat down in meditation. He said, "I have received my return ticket, I know I will come back. In order to collect my return ticket, I have to get on the train right now, for only then will I catch the connecting return train."

Within half an hour, consciously, wilfully with the chanting of Om he lifted his pranas and left the body. In history and in mythology I had read of people attaining samadhi, yet I had never known how they would do it. I had seen these tamasha wallahs at the Kumbha Mela and other places who go underground for a day or so and say that this is samadhi. Now, for the first time I understood what samadhi actually meant. It is the conscious, wilful withdrawal of pranas and the conscious withdrawal of the soul from this dimension into the transcendental. A person who can do that is definitely able to ensure that the tattwas can again take birth.

Sri Swamiji's mahasamadhi indicates the jnana aspect. With jnana, which is uplifting for everyone, one becomes selfless. In ajnana, ignorance, one is selfish, whereas in jnana there is no other choice but to become selfless, if not one hundred percent at least one percent. With jnana one has no choice but to extend a helping hand to somebody in need. In ajnana one can withdraw that hand and not bother about the other person, however samajh, understanding and wisdom will always ensure that one extends a hand. One does not put one's hands behind the back. That is the concept of jnana yoga, not the question, 'Who am I?'

Bhakti yoga

The third expressive aspect of antaranga yoga is bhakti yoga. People think bhakti yoga is the yoga of devotion, but it is the yoga of emotional management. Emotions are connected with the world, yet when the same emotions are connected with the inner self they are identified as and become bhakti. When one sees a person whom one likes there is the experience of passion. When one sees a child one experiences love and affection. When one sees a bag of money lying on the ground one experiences greed. These emotions arise due to the senses connecting with a sense object. Between the money bag and greed there is a connection of the sense with that sense object. A beautiful girl is sitting there and passion is felt. There is connection. My adversary is sitting there, there is connection, animosity is felt. With connection an emotion comes to the surface, yet without connection that emotion becomes redundant and has no meaning.

For an emotion to have meaning, connection is important. Whether it be greed, envy, jealousy, hatred, compassion, love, sympathy or anything else. Without connection no emotion can rise. These emotional connections are flowing outwards. When the same emotion flows in, and seeks to discover one's peaceful self, that is known as bhakti.

Bhakti yoga is not the yoga of devotion. Only devotion is bhakti. Going to the temple is bhakti, however bhakti yoga is the discovery of the pure emotional sentiment within. The pure sentiment within connects one with one's transcendental self and transcendental nature. When one is connected with the transcendental nature one's sentiments are not limited to oneself only, they touch each and every person.

When that pure sentiment touches people all around, others will say, "Oh, in the presence of that person I felt shanti, peace, in the presence of that person I experienced love, in the presence of that person I experienced quietness."

People express such sentiments from time to time when they encounter people they consider different or special. When emotion is purified, it connects one with everyone and that is known as atmabhava. The real bhakti and aim of bhakti yoga is atmabhava, the ability to see oneself in other people.

If atmabhava can be applied to everybody and one is able to look after and care for the other person with the same intensity and in the same manner that one would look after one's own son, that is pure emotion. This pure, selfless emotion is bhakti yoga. The apex of bhakti yoga is atmabhava, to see one's reflection in each and everyone. If one sees one's reflection in each person then one cares for each person. If one does not see one's reflection in the other person then one does not bother about that person.

When atmabhava is cultivated, the suffering of other people reduces, for one looks after strangers as if they were one's family. This bhakti, this atmabhava comes with love and sacrifice.

'I also' and 'We too'

Karma yoga, jnana yoga and bhakti yoga are the expressive aspects of yoga. With hatha yoga, raja yoga and kriya yoga one transforms one's nature, transcends its limitations and discovers a new, better aspect of oneself without being affected by jealousies, hatred, anger, frustrations and dejections.

An effort has to be made to come out of this grim situation and experience the beauty that life has to offer. Even in spiritual life people are fighting with each other, however if there is atmabhava, a feeling that all are on this journey together, then the thought arises: let us help and support each other, let us walk the path together so that our unity will transform humanity.

When you walk your own path and denounce another's path, differences are created. Therefore, a change of attitude is important. Sri Swami Satyananda used to say that the reason for unrest and lawlessness in society is that you see yourself as a singularity, 'Only I'. You should see yourself as part of a whole, 'I also'. If you proclaim yourself as alone and apart, everyone will point their guns at you, they will make you their common target. When you see yourself as an entity among others, you become part of the integrated whole.

Religions proclaim, 'We are alone', thus creating bitterness and strife between faiths. They are caught in an endless round of bickering. If they were to say 'We too' instead of 'We alone', there would no longer be any scope for quarrel and the squabbling would die down. Dispute arises when one imposes one's beliefs and overrides the beliefs of others. Reconciliation is possible when people recognize and understand what is common in their ideas, and relate to that.

One request

Yoga is a subject which allows you to discover yourself, which allows you to become a gardener of your life and which allows you to explore and express the beauty that life has to offer. That is the message of yoga with which we have come to Delhi.

The idea of this gathering is to introduce, in a simple manner, what yoga has to offer and what you can apply in a small dosage to experience the benefits yoga. I am thankful to the organizers for the opportunity to come on this journey; they have helped me to propagate and bring the message of my masters and the tradition to you. Finally, I have one request – Give yoga a chance in your life!

—19 September 2014, Punjab Haryana Delhi, Chamber of Commerce, Delhi, India