Message to Yogic Studies Students

Swami Niranjanananda Saraswati

Hari Om Tat Sat

It is a nice day today to wish you all goodbye. Although the weather is cold outside, the heart is warm. It is this warmth of heart that you have to go out with. Warmth of heart does not mean a sentiment or a feeling but positivity, happiness and optimism. These are the three qualities that we look for and aspire to in life, and they represent the warmth of the heart.

This is what we try to achieve in yoga too. Yoga has been given many definitions. One is physical, related to the practice and the perfection of the physical practices, asanas, pranayamas, and hatha yoga. Another aspect of yoga is purely psychological, the management of mental conditions, states and vrittis. Another stage of yoga is spiritual, the path of discovering oneself.

Yoga vidya

In one yoga practice you do not cover all the three grounds. In the four-month course that you have had at Ganga Darshan, the focus has been on all aspects in a little measure so that you are able to experience the integrated form of yoga. This has been the teaching of Swami Sivananda, later furthered by our guru, Sri Swami Satyananda. For them yoga is a vidya.

Vidya means knowledge and this knowledge is not only physical or how to get rid of one’s physical problems or mental, psychological disturbances. The purpose of vidya is to connect one with wisdom so that human thinking, human interaction, human behaviour can be harmonized. That is the purpose of vidya. Through learning, knowledge, understanding and by applying the principles of positivity in one’s life one comes to a state of harmony, peace and contentment. That has been the focus of yoga. In society 80% of people practise the physical yoga yet that is a miniscule part. The classical literatures of yoga speak of chitta vritti nirodha, the psychological management which was the thrust of Sage Patanjali.

Sage Patanjali never taught asana and pranayama. Patanjali was never the master or propagator of hatha yoga. His main concern was psychological and the improvement of human psychology. The main concern of Swatmarama and Gheranda and others was improvement of and harmony in the physical body. These are different trends in yoga which people have not yet explored.

In the hype of yoga people have latched on to the physical component and there is nothing wrong with that. However, as a teacher you have to know that there is something beyond the physical component that yoga is aiming to help you understand. There is something beyond the mind and beyond the human psyche that yoga is trying to help you understand.

That understanding is your understanding, it is not the yogic understanding for the path of yoga is defined already. You have to grow on that path, build up your own experience, and have the right attitude to make your life a quality life, and therefore, in the ashram environment there is training where certain disciplines are to be adhered to.

Self-improvement

People see discipline as bondage but I don’t. People see discipline as restriction but I don’t. I see discipline as a way to prepare ourselves to become more free, more creative, more understanding and more aware. That is the purpose of discipline for me. Not to restrict your creativity but to give a direction to that creativity, the mind has to be prepared.

Ultimately all reactions and responses in your life are from your own mind, from your likes and dislikes, from your attachments, attractions, detachments and repulsions. These are the only reasons why you face conflict, struggle, stress and tension in life. If you are able to keep your mind in your grip, there is no reason for anybody to suffer and struggle. That has been the philosophy of yoga.

You have to go into yoga with the understanding that it will make you more free from your limitations. By removing your inabilities it will make you more able. With that idea of self-improvement you have to go into yoga. If the idea of self-improvement is not there, yoga has no meaning. It only becomes an exercise, a gymnastic or aerobic practice the way thousands of studios around the world teach yoga.

Remain a student

As a final message, please remember to remain a student always. Never consider yourself to be a teacher. As long as you are a student, your mind will be keen to learn and absorb. If you feel that you have concluded your studies, your mind will shut down. So, make the effort to remain a student all the time so that you are able to imbibe, learn and absorb from your interactions, your sadhana, your teaching and your practice the best that yoga can offer you.

—24 January 2016, Ganga Darshan, Munger