Swami Sivananda gave instructions to all his disciples: “When you go out into society, do not propagate Vedanta philosophy: Aham Brahmasmi – “I am Brahman.” Those ideas are not the requirement of human society. Vedanta may be your aspiration as a sannyasi, but it is a not a requirement. Teach yoga, be a yoga teacher, and teach people how to overcome the physical distress, the illness, disease, imbalance, irregularities which are physical and material in nature; how to strengthen, activate and properly use the senses, the karmendriyas and jnanendriyas; how to work with the intellect, apply the mind and logic, and innovate ways to do things, not just follow a trend-set pattern.” These were Swami Sivananda’s words.
God has given you enough grey matter in the head to be innovative. After all what is the difference between you and Christ, Krishna, Rama or Vasishtha? There is no difference. They came with the same grey cells that you have, with the same red blood, with the same body organs, with the same swabhava, nature, trait and character of senses, attractions, distractions, likes, dislikes that you have. They were ordinary people. They were human beings, yet they were able to express their higher qualities, which you are unable to express due to your limitations.
The mind has to apply its knowledge. You have knowledge, but you don’t apply it. When you apply knowledge, it becomes wisdom. Applied knowledge equals wisdom. The task of the head, the mind is: slowing down the vritti; pratyahara, learning to withdraw the senses, controlling and guide them; dharana, focusing the attention and awareness, stopping the agitations of the mind, rectifying the habits and behaviours.
That is the management of the head through raja yoga. Management of the head, the brain and mind, everything that happens there and that connects you with the outside world is raja yoga.
Swami Sivananda said that feelings, bhava, connect us to each other. The presence of feelings indicates an intimate, deep connection, and the absence of feelings indicates separation and strangeness. This heart and the emotions have to be developed. The negative traits of emotions in the form of anger, hatred, passions, jealousies have to be lessened.
Swami Sivananda gave the instruction that the focus of yoga is not self-realization, but the development of the faculties of head, heart and hands; brain, emotions, and performance or interaction. In this manner on’s entire life is affected and there is growth and upliftment.
This instruction was carried forward by Swami Satyananda when he came to Munger. With it in mind, he developed an integrated approach to yoga. He did not emphasize one yoga, like many schools emphasize only hatha yoga. Other schools only focus on bhakti yoga as part of religion and devotion; others focus only on jnana yoga as part of discovering one’s own self. There are schools that have picked up one specific item and who are teaching that.
Through his efforts, Swami Satyananda made Bihar School of Yoga one of the first institutes to teach an integrated yoga for body, mind, emotions and psychic development. These aspects were catered to: the physical or annamaya kosha; the pranic energy and emotional dimension or pranamaya kosha; the mental, intellectual, logical, linear dimension or manomaya kosha; the behavioural patterns, habits, samskaras, the tweaking of the negative into positive or vijnanamaya kosha; and experiencing the inner peace and luminosity or anandamaya kosha. These are the five dimensions that yoga has to access: the physical, pranic, mental, conscious and atmic.
Swami Satyananda said that any practice of yoga for any individual must cater to these five levels, not only physical, not only pranic as that will create an imbalance in the body and in life. He developed an interesting system incorporating a series of practices of asanas which are sequentially, progressively developing the body for higher, advanced practices.
First, it begins by loosening the body, with the pawanmuktasana part 1 series, for each and every joint and part of the body. Second, it gradually strengthens the major organs of the body, especially the digestive system, the pancreas, kidneys, liver, bladder, intestines, stomach, through the practice of the second part of the pawanmuktasana series. Each area, each section of the body is looked into, exercised, defects rebalanced, optimum behaviour attained, and then one moves on to the next group of practices.
Swami Satyananda developed what we teach today in the name of the Bihar Yoga tradition. It is not a brand. It is a recognition of a school that is propagating the classical style of yoga as conceived by the rishis and munis, with the same spirit and focus.
Swami Satyananda trained yoga sannyasins to be the first yoga teachers. Yoga sannyasins have no children, no husband, no wife. We have no distraction, and only one focus. We have made vidya the purpose of life and we try to live that vidya, science, to the best of our ability. Each one makes an incredible effort.
Our purpose is not commercial in any manner. We have come to yoga because we like it, not because we want to make a profession and establish a centre.
Our focus in teaching yoga is not on how you can earn more money through yoga, but how you can experience yoga in the best manner possible. If you have come to learn how to make more money through the practices of yoga, you have come to the wrong place as that aspiration of yours will never be fulfilled in this place. If you have to come to experience yoga and in the truest sense of the word ‘sincerity’ share that experience with others, then your commitment and sincerity will take you a long way.
We teach yoga, not as a profession but as a vidya. How you apply it in the correct manner, in the appropriate manner is a trust that is given to you.
August 2015, Ganga Darshan, Munger