Swami Niranjanananda Saraswati: The first chapter was the age of yoga propagation, the Stone Age, and the second chapter is the age of yoga experience, the Bronze Age. The Stone Age had its own distinct identity, which has evolved into the Bronze Age. Similarly, the Bronze Age has its distinct identity, and in the course of time, when the materials and tools have been accumulated, it will progress into the next age. In every age things move forward, nothing goes back.
In the same manner, you as yoga learners – I am using the expression ‘yoga learners’ – must think and recognize that you have to develop the yogic experience rather than teaching others to develop the yogic experience. It is totally unjustified to the tradition, to the gurus and to the wisdom of the vidya that you are telling other people to relax, while your own mind is under stress. That is not honouring the vidya or the parampara. If there is a feeling to honour the vidya and the parampara, the tradition, the knowledge and the wisdom, then a definite effort has to be made to make your lifestyle a bit better than what it was yesterday.
As learners of yoga who live in their own centres, teach in different locations in the city, or live in an ashram, a question must be posed: you are teaching others, but what are you doing yourself? Are you living what you are teaching? To answer this, you have to see and observe your lifestyle.
It is not possible or practical for everybody to live a perfect yogic lifestyle. If you live at home with your family and have to look after the children’s education, the shopping, the job, the house, and are only a part-time yoga teacher, then definitely it becomes more challenging to live the yogic lifestyle of your choice. There are many other factors that divert your energy, time and attention.
The other group, people who live in ashrams for some time, also cannot be considered living a yogic life. An ashram has its own set of disciplines, and yogic life, which is unique to you, has its own set of disciplines. Ashram life may require you to get up at four in the morning, but merely getting up at four is not yogic life. If you begin your day with the chanting of the three mantras, irrespective of when you get up, then it is a yogic life. You have to decide at what time you are going to wake up depending on your environment. Whatever environment you are in, you have to live according to that. In the ashram, if the class is going to start at five, then you have to be up early, but that compulsion is not there at home.
To live a yogic life no matter where you are, you have to spread the yogic awareness throughout the day. One of the biggest shortcomings in people, whether yoga practitioners or advocates of yoga, is that they are not able to sustain a routine and discipline. They think, ‘My yoga is done in the classroom. When I am not in the classroom, I don’t have to think about yoga.’ This kind of thinking means that you don’t even understand the meaning of the word yoga, yet you talk about it as if you were a master. Just by reading a few books and making eloquent speeches, you do not become a master. There is a sutra in the Yoga Sutras about regularity, continuity and believing in what you do: Sa tu deerghakaala nairantarya satkaara sevito dridhabhoomih – “It (sadhana) becomes firmly grounded by being continued for a long time with reverence and without interruption.” If you remember this sutra, it will help you understand the path of sadhana.
Yoga is not classroom teaching. You have heard from all the speakers during these four days that the yoga they learnt was more from interaction, observation and self-correction and not from classes of asana, pranayama, yoga nidra and pratyahara. Nevertheless, the biggest misunderstanding continues to exist that ‘I practise my yoga every day from this time to this time, and then I am free to do other things.’ No, you are not free to do other things. You may not do your asana and pranayama and yoga nidra and meditation, yet you are not free. You have to maintain the yogic awareness and attitude throughout. It is this aspect which will help you in life, not practice of asana and pranayama. Therefore, take yoga away from classroom learning, teaching and practice; put it into your personal life as a moment to moment practice.
To make yoga into a moment to moment practice, you have to look at all the components of the Satyananda Yoga system that Sri Swamiji has devised. Then make capsules of the practices to do at different times of the day. Spread the practices over a twelve-hour period. In the morning, practise the three mantras. The practice of mantras pacifies the mind, as is indicated in the meaning of the word mantra. Many of you think, ‘Why do I have to chant mantras in the morning when my mind is already pacified? I should do it when my mind is disturbed.’ You think in such a manner as you listen only to the words without understanding their intention.
The mind does not need to be pacified only when you feel the stress, for the mind is always under stress. Even when you are not aware of it, the subconscious and unconscious activities continue to take place. Even right now subconscious and unconscious activities are taking place, yet you are not aware of them. To develop awareness of those activities, moment to moment awareness has to take place. If you are moving your hand, you should know that you are moving your hand. If you are moving your head, you should know that you are moving your head. Not a single act should go unnoticed. If I am even flexing a finger right now, I am aware that my finger is being flexed. That degree of awareness has to come. Continuous, constant awareness has to be built up. This can happen if in the morning you make three sankalpas; one for the body, one for the mind, and one for the entire life. Body requires health, therefore the first sankalpa is for health with Mahamrityunjaya mantra. Mind requires wisdom, therefore the second sankalpa is for wisdom with Gayatri mantra. Life requires distress-free living; therefore the third sankalpa is for overcoming distress with the 32 names of Durga. By making these three sankalpas in the morning when you are fresh from sleep, you plant positive seeds in the mind. Then you can go about your daily business.
There are many books that have been published over the last four years as part of the second chapter initiative. There is a particular series, ‘Yoga for Everyone’. These contain practices in capsule forms: with minimum practice you can get maximum benefits. This approach has to be adopted in life. There can be five asanas, four asanas, seven asanas; one pranayama, two pranayamas, three pranayamas, no pranayama; this practice, yes; this practice, no; this practice, half; this practice, one quarter, according to the different capsules that have been made. Each capsule has a specific purpose, just as Disprin, antibiotic or bronchodilater each has a different purpose.
The capsules include asanas, which can be practised for no more than fifteen to twenty minutes before breakfast. The logic is simple: if you have a headache, you take one Disprin and the headache goes away in ten minutes. By taking ten Disprins, will the headache go away in one minute? No, but you will definitely damage your system. It is the same with yoga. If you do five asanas for your need, they will fulfil the purpose. You don’t need to practise fifty. You are free to do them; that is your choice, especially if you want to show off to yourself. If you want to derive the benefit, then be specific.
Pranayama can be practised during the day, whenever you feel low in energy. Even in your workplace, go to the toilet, light incense and practise your pranayama. It is possible, people have done it.
When you come back home from your work or other external occupations in the evening, lie down on your bed for ten minutes, practise yoga nidra and get rid of everything. At night, before going to sleep, practise meditation.
What you do in a two-hour session in a class can be spread across the whole day. Each time you do something, you are renewing your connection and awareness, with yoga and with yourself and your condition. The more you observe yourself, the more the desire to fine-tune will develop. You will begin to notice the little bits here and there which need rectification.
Along with all this, there has to be some swadhyaya, something that you study every day. You read the newspaper every day, try reading one page of satsang also every day. Make that part of your daily news. Every time you open your computer or iPad, after completing the job, read a satsang and change the mind, change the mind completely. Try to develop the positive qualities while living your usual life, away from all the disciplines of the ashram, which is hard.
In the ashram, October is declared the month of happiness. If you observe for how long you are happy during the day, you will be surprised to find that it is not more than fifteen to twenty minutes in the entire twenty-four-hour span. Can you increase the span of happiness? From twenty minutes per day, can you make it half an hour, then one hour, then two hours, and keep on increasing the duration of being happy? That will help you.
People are forgetting how to be happy. Earlier this year, there was a news item that in Oxford University a course on happiness was being given by a professor, and it was the most participated in course. While in other classes there were thirty, forty or fifty students, in this class there were about five hundred students who wanted to learn how to be happy. What a pathetic state of human life that now courses have to be conducted in universities to teach you how to be happy.
You have to learn how to be happy as you have forgotten how to be happy. There fore, applying the component of lifestyle yamas and niyamas becomes that much more important. If you can develop these yogic attitudes along with swadhyaya, satsang, kirtan, mantras, they will create a substantial change in the environment of the group, the family or the ashram. Wherever there is a group effort, the environment will change.
Even the Saturday Mahamrityunjaya mantra havan is not an individual effort. In India at least, the entire family gets together and even neighbours come to do the Mahamrityunjaya mantra, the purpose being to create a change in the mental environment. Definitely, it brings about more unity, cohesiveness, understanding, communication, affection, sympathy, love and connection. All these lead to strengthening of the human nature.
You have to think in terms of lifestyle. Don’t just focus on the practices that you wish to learn or do; focus on how you can live a harmonious yogic lifestyle, no matter where you are, by creating a routine for yourself. Then we will be able to move into the second chapter of yoga with optimism and hope and bring about a qualitative change in our life and in our environment.
23 October 2019, Munger Yoga Symposium