Our tradition begins with Swami Sivananda. Being a doctor he knew the science of the human body, human anatomy and psychology. He knew about environmental conditions and the problems that people face in society. These points are important for there are so many sadhus and mahatmas who have no idea about society or what it needs; they just talk. Swami Sivananda understood the needs of society and tried to fulfil those needs. He kept his own philosophy and knowledge in the background.
The tradition of sannyasins is Vedanta and not yoga. The philosophy of sannyasins is the philosophy of Vedanta. According to Swami Sivananda, Vedanta is all right as a personal experience but one cannot teach it. When a person falls sick and one tells that person, "You are not this body and you are not this mind, you are a pure everlasting conscious soul," he will not listen. Instead he will reject it and say, "I am suffering. I have asthma, I feel the pain of injections and you are trying to tell me that I am not this body!"
Vedanta is not for people of society who are engrossed in the material world. Until one renounces society and adopts a new idea, thought or lifestyle, one should not propagate Vedanta. If a person is interested in propagation, then it is yoga that should be propagated for through yoga one will be able to improve people's personality. Swami Sivananda used to say that one should apply yoga to develop the quality and capacity of the mind, emotions and actions; for the purpose of yoga is not realization or a vision of the divine. The purpose of yoga is to develop the faculties of one's life.
One can aspire for self-realization, moksha or liberation, however this is not a necessity in life. So what is? The need is to allow the strength and potential of life to express itself. In that process one gives meaning to one's life, one attains peace, connects with one's inner being or soul, and one acquires a vision and purpose in life.
All sadhus say that the purpose of life is moksha. Once someone asked Sri Swami Satyananda if the purpose of all spiritual knowledge and discipline was the vision of the divine or ishwar darshan. He replied that it was not. When the person said that the scriptures say so, he said that it might be written but it is not necessary.
No doubt it is written in the scriptures yet it is not a necessity, for people do not have the capacity to know the transcendental reality. God is transcendental reality yet people's minds are not transcendental. They are not transcendental and their senses are not transcendental. Therefore, people who do not possess this capacity, how can they attempt to know what is transcendental? When he was asked what one can do about this, Swamiji replied that one can develop this capacity. One's nature is tamasic yet it can be changed to being more sattwic.
One has to sort out the problems, difficulties and distresses in life. If one tries to find out the reason for the disturbance and restlessness in one's life, then it is not difficult to attain peace. The human condition is such that one can fine-tune one's life and one can always adjust. When a human being has no idea about the reason for the prevailing restlessness yet continues to search for peace, there is a problem. The moment one realizes the reason for the problems, one does not need to search for peace. One can find the solution oneself. Once the cause of the problem is known, it is easy to look for a solution.
This non-transcendental mind cannot experience the transcendental reality. Sri Swami Satyananda suggests that one can work on creating a suitable or capable mind by removing the impurities of the mind to end the limitations of the mind and activate it's energy. In this way one can try to understand the supreme reality.
In our tradition, the teachings of our paramguru Swami Sivananda and our guru Swami Satyananda make it clear that the purpose of yoga is connected with life. The purpose of yoga is to activate one's inner faculties. If in this process one experiences peace, prosperity or the supreme reality then that is a bonus. However, the focus should remain on the management of body, mind and life.
To achieve this goal one should prepare a suitable personal program or sadhana that can address the needs of one's body, the needs of the mind and that can transform one's karma into a creative karma. The teaching of yoga which the Bihar School of Yoga propagates has this purpose – to deal with situations, problems, difficulties, illness, psychological and spiritual limitations through yogic practices. We have to tackle them, we have to address them.
—21 September 2014, The Railway Officers Club, Delhi, India