The Essence of Yoga

Swami Niranjanananda Saraswati

The mind is influenced by six expressions: kama, passion and desire is one, and everybody has desires; krodha, aggression and anger; lobha, greed; moha, infatuation – all these are in everyone; so is mada, ego or pride; and matsarya, jealousy, which also exists in everyone. These six traits define the behaviour of the mind in everybody's life. People speak of tension, stress and anxiety, and they try to deal with these, but they are not dealing with the cause of tension, stress and anxiety.

It is just as in medicine: if people have hypertension, they take a tablet to bring down the hypertension, however, they do not treat the cause of hypertension. For diabetes they take tablets or insulin injections to increase the output of insulin, yet there is no treatment to rectify the imbalance, for the body to again produce insulin. This is where yoga becomes most effective, for it allows the body to regain its health.

The same applies to the mind. When we speak of stress and tension, where are they arising from? When our desires are unfulfilled, that is a cause of stress. We relate stress to either work, family or the social environment or situation, yet they are only trigger points for bringing out these traits of the mind.

Dissatisfaction comes when desires or expectations are not fulfilled; becomes the cause of stress. Dissatisfaction comes when we are not able to manage our aggression and that becomes the cause of anxiety and tension. Therefore, when we are looking at the root cause of stress and tension, we discover that they emanate from one of the six tendencies or behaviours of the mind.

When we teach yoga, whether to adults or to children, our approach is not only physical; it also allows them to become self-observant, to recognize their reactions and responses, and to manage their uncontrolled and unguided reactions and responses in a better manner. Once that happens, they become free from the direct effect and influence of these mental behaviours and discover their own peace and creativity.

It is not the physical posture which is changing the human nature; it is not the mental practice which is changing the human nature; it is becoming aware of the environment and how one responds to different situations in life. The essence of yoga lies in giving one the ability to respond in an appropriate, harmonious, constructive and positive manner even in a destructive and deteriorating situation.

6 June 2014, Kathmandu, Nepal