In books on philosophy, yoga or spiritual subjects, various authors often say that to be a winner in spiritual life, an aspirant has to be like a warrior who fights and overcomes negativity, shortcomings and weaknesses. However, this idea goes against the spiritual precepts and principles of yoga, which say: “Be a farmer, not a warrior.”
It is no use gaining at the expense of death, destruction and suffering, but there is beauty in being a farmer because you plant seeds, care for them, ensure their security and growth, and later on enjoy the fruits. In yoga, spiritual life is becoming the farmer of our own lives. A farmer converts a barren piece of land into a beautiful garden through effort. That is the spiritual aspect of yoga.
You have to look at your life and make it into a garden. Sow the positive qualities, the inner strengths and convictions, willpower, understanding, wisdom, compassion and love, and the desire for service and purification, which define progression in spiritual life. Remember that life is not suffering or survival, but a sequence of moments of happiness, joy, peace and bliss. If you capture these moments, then you live a full life because you have created a sequence and continuity, but if you think of life as suffering, struggling and surviving, then you do not see the beauty. When you begin to plant positive seeds, they convert the quality of your life, and that makes you a yogi.
In Sanskrit, there are three words: yogi, bhogi and rhogi. A yogi is a practitioner of yoga, a bhogi is the enjoyer and a rhogi is one who is sick. In normal life we are on the middle path, searching for bhoga, enjoyment. As long as the enjoyment is balanced, you become a yogi, but if it is unbalanced, then you become a rhogi. A bhogi is one who enjoys, lives and acts, one who is part of the whole world. We are all bhogis, enjoyers. As the drive for pleasure increases, we become more materialistic and move into a state of imbalance, which leads to ill health of the body, mind, emotions and spirit. But if we are able to regulate our enjoyment, if we are able to direct our efforts towards balance, then we become a yogi, one who experiences harmony in life.
In the entire system of yoga, the effort is not to make you enlightened or spiritual. Enlightenment or realization is an outcome of a balanced, harmonious personality, which is not in conflict with itself or with other people, situations or conditions, but is equipoised. Enlightenment is not the ultimate goal of life. Mind management is the goal because the rest is just an outcome of the inner harmony one is able to experience through the yogic practices of meditation, awareness and contemplation. This is the aim of yoga, because at this point yoga does not only remain a practice, but becomes a lifestyle. If yoga is only a practice, something you do in a classroom, you do not carry it with you outside, but if yoga is a lifestyle, it remains within you twenty-four hours of the day, wherever you are or whatever your circumstances may be. You live yoga. That is the culmination, the grand finale we wish to see. We do not wish to see somebody who can practise meditation for eight hours without moving their body, because that is useless. All you do is waste your time in mental imaginings and fantasies. By applying yourself, you will receive more returns than by simply closing your eyes. Therefore, it needs to be understood that yoga is not escaping from life, but running into life with open arms and an attitude of acceptance, and with the attitude of improving one’s ability to perform, to think and to understand.
This is the basic foundation of yoga. We begin with the purpose of improving the well being of the body, attaining peace of mind and experiencing spiritual awakening. These three aims have to be taken together in order for the roots of our life to be strong and able to withstand every kind of storm or tempest that comes our way.
Spiritual and mystical experiences are the outcome of a trained mind, a mind that has been disciplined and awakened by the input of different attitudes and qualities to uplift human consciousness. The general trend is to talk a lot, love a little and hate a lot. Let us talk less, love more and hate less. How long are we going to subject ourselves to the agonies which are self-created by our ego, ambitions and dislikes? We have to connect with the positive self some time.
Yoga provides the instruments to connect with the positive, creative self. This creative, positive self is nourished and nurtured by the qualities of love, compassion, purity and understanding. We need to cherish these qualities because they make us a real human being. This has been the teaching of all the spiritual traditions.
Yoga allows us to conquer our inner space. This is the teaching of our tradition and also the teaching we encounter in the ancient pre-Columbian culture. There are many countries in the world where yoga is practised, but only a few that have the potential to experience yoga and live yoga. India is one of these countries, Colombia is another, and possibly other South American countries too, because the yogic culture extends to the Andes and is not restricted to a geographical location. Just as energy moves in the spine, in the same way yoga has moved through the Andes to the South American countries. Here we find very pure and sincere seekers who, if given the right opportunity, training and teaching, can again live a yogic way of life and experience union with other beings and the cosmos. This union is an expression of love and compassion because union without love and compassion, empathy and oneness, purity and service, is not union. It is an attitude of mind, a selfless, positive and constructive attitude of mind.
In a nutshell, yoga is a process of sublimating the normal and natural behaviour to a point where it becomes universal. Yoga teaches us to come out of the personal shell. Before a seed can sprout, it has to die. Only when the shell of the seed is broken will the sprout be seen. In the same manner, yoga helps us to break the shell of selfishness and egocentricity in order to allow spiritual sprouting to take place where there is beauty, calmness and peace. This is what we look for in our life in today’s society.