The lifestyle yamas of yoga are not commonly known for no one has studied them. Even the yamas and niyamas of raja yoga would not be known if one had not read the book Yoga Sutras. Similarly, the yamas and niyamas of other yogas are not known to people as everybody is focusing on the body. “I am focusing on my body and I don’t care for yamas and niyamas,” that is what people state, yet then they should also realize that they are not practising yoga.
In the absence of yamas and niyamas, yoga is only physical exercise. If you bring in yamas and niyamas in your life, you are connecting with the good, the positive, the constructive and the creative and you are allowing the space for them to manifest and improve your life. Therefore, the lifestyle yamas begin with happiness. That is the first yama of yoga. The first niyama of yoga is japa.
Religion connects spirituality with awareness of God. Yoga connects spirituality with awareness of purity and correctness. That is the main difference between the idea of spirituality prevalent in society and the idea of spirituality in yoga. In yoga it is purity and inner awakening. Spirituality from a religious point of view is awareness of God. There is a difference in understanding between cultures, although we use the same word ‘spirituality’. When I use the word spirituality, Indians will have a certain idea and westerners will develop a different idea. These two thoughts, these two ideas will never merge. For western society the understanding of spirituality is based on religion. The understanding of spirituality in Asia is not based on religion but on personal experience of people who have gone through the process and have realized something different – that we are all part of the same universe, same family. Religion says ‘you have to believe’ for it is based on belief system. Spirituality is based on ‘you have to discover’ for you have to see what lies within the dirty mind and the impure heart. The dirty mind is an expression of greed, passion, aggression, infatuation, arrogance and jealousy. The pure mind is wisdom, understanding, so totally the opposite. If we realize what is underneath the layers of the dirt in our mind, the purity, then that is spirituality, according to Indian or yogic thoughts. This is what we have to discover within ourselves.
There is no use talking about peace if we are unable to experience peace ourselves. There is no use talking about happiness if we can’t remain happy for the majority of the waking time. Happiness should become the natural nature of personality, not worry and anxiety. Yet the opposite has taken place. Worry and anxieties have become the natural expression of every human mind, and happiness has taken a back-seat. It should change. The majority of the time happiness and at certain times, when there are tensions and problems, then worry and anxiety is okay. However, twenty-four hours worry and anxiety with a few moments of happiness thrown in between, that is not how God wanted his children to develop and grow. God wants all children to be happy and not worried and anxious.
So why can’t we make the effort and how can we become happy? By seeing what is the cause of our pain and suffering: Is it me, my expectation, my ambition, another person who creates blocks and barriers? Discover that and try to manage it. If it is you, then change yourself so that you can become more happy. It won’t happen overnight but it will happen.
The month of October, as a rule in this ashram, we call the happy month. Everybody has to try to be happy, even sannyasins. Unhappiness is a condition that exists in everybody’s mind. In that condition of unhappiness, we close ourselves, internalize ourselves and brood on what is happening to us, feel depressed and dejected, feel aggressive and exert and express our ideas, so there is always mental agitation, disturbance.
Meditation is good to help observe the mind. After you have observed the mind, can you consciously and wilfully change the expression of the mind? In meditation you can observe, you can practise antar mouna and say, ‘Okay, I am going to pick this thought up and discover from where it is coming’. Fine. You have discovered that, you have picked up the thought, and you might have cleared the thought also, but then you have cleared only one aspect, one corner of the room. What about the lingering smell of dejection, depression and anxiety that moment has left behind? You cleared the room but did you light the incense to get rid of the lingering odour? And if you light the incense to remove the lingering odour of negativity, then that incense has to be of happiness.
That incense has to be that of happiness, not of anything else, not even mantra, for with mantra you will be again withdrawing in. In this manner, you have to understand the expressions of your mind and make the effort to positively change the expressions of the mind every instant, every moment. This is the most difficult sadhana. When we think of yoga we think of classroom training, ‘I am going to do this and this and this,’ ‘I am going to be taught this and this and this,’ ‘I am going to learn this and this and this.’ However, after and beyond the classroom situation, I live my normal life, not my yogic life.
How can a person who involves for a few hours during the day with yoga expect that they are cultivating spiritual awareness? Don’t expect that. Don’t put on a mask of righteousness and correctness on your face when you know that what you are doing is not correct. You have to do that sadhana.
25 October 2018, Munger Yoga Symposium