Swamiji, we have some questions . . .

Swami Niranjanananda Saraswati

Student: Swamiji, what does the word yoga mean?

Swamiji: That is the number one question. Yoga in Sanskrit means ‘to come together’, ‘to join’, ‘to unite’. This word has been taken in a religious sense, the coming together of the individual soul with the higher soul, atma with Paramatma. But that idea of atma the individual soul uniting with Paramatma, the supreme soul, is way beyond our understanding so my guru defined the word ‘yoga’ in a very modern manner, modern way.

He asked, “What is the meaning of the word ‘science’ and who is a scientist? “So, the word science indicates a process of investigation and of knowing the fact and separating the fact from fiction through analysis, through investigation. This idea of science can be applied to any aspect of life from geology to anthropomorphic to history to nature to everything. Same is the meaning of the word ‘yoga’, investigation, but of oneself.

One aspect of science is to know about the material world and the other aspect of science is to know about the individual, personal self, “Who am I? What happens to me later on? What is the nature of this body? How do I stop becoming sick? How can I be more healthy? How can I be more efficient and creative?” and in this manner to investigate oneself and improve oneself. So it is an individual’s investigation within oneself and science is the investigation outside oneself.

One of the meanings of yoga is bringing together the best qualities of life to become a better human being; and that is the union, bringing together all the best that you have in life. Join them together and be the best human being: happy, successful, useful, creative, knowledgeable. At all levels excel in everything that you do. Yoga is bringing together all the good qualities of life, uniting them together.

Student: Swamiji, is there any difference between yoga and yoga darshan?

Swamiji: Yoga darshan means philosophy of yoga and yoga generally means the practice of yoga. Yoga abhyasa and yoga darshan are the two names that are used commonly, but they are two separate legs of yoga vidya, the complete knowledge of yoga.

The complete knowledge of yoga is in two parts: theory and practice. The practice is known as yoga or yoga abhyasa and the theory is known as yoga darshan, that is the difference.

Student: Swamiji, how is yoga different from exercise?

Swamiji: When you are doing an exercise you are not aware of the body or the mental state but at the time of yoga practice you are aware of the body and the mental state. Yogic asanas are not like aerobic or gymnastic exercises to build the body but they are exercises to improve the condition of the body.

For example, if you are doing push-ups and you are doing them to the maximum limit of your body, if you have to do them in the yogic manner you will be combining your breath with each push-up, observing the body, going to its limit and then stopping, not and over extending and forcing and gradually building up,using your breath and mind together, so it won’t be a jerky movement. It will be a controlled, guided movement. That is the main difference. In exercises there is jerky movement and in yoga it is guided movement.

Student: Swamiji, is yoga a way of life or physical exercise?

Swamiji: Very good. Yoga is a way of life. It is not physical exercise. Physical exercise is just some percent of yoga. You see there are many different kinds of yogas. The yoga that deals with body is known as hatha yoga and asanas are part of hatha yoga. The yoga that deals with the mind is known as raja yoga and there are no asana in that. The yoga that deals with spiritual awakening is known as kriya yoga and there is no asana practice in that. Asana is just a very tiny part of hatha yoga.

Yoga is a lifestyle so that physically you remain healthy, mentally you remain peaceful, relaxed and creative, socially you remain connected with everybody, spiritually you remain aware of the goodness in everyone. From that perspective yoga is a way of life.

19 December 2016, Ganga Darshan, Munger, Meeting with students of DAV School, Munger