When the waters of a lake are still, you can see the clouds, the sky, the trees, the mountains, the sun or the moon reflected in it. However, when the water is disturbed nothing can be seen in it. In the same way, when your mind is at rest the world is reflected in it; the inner excitement, restlessness and stimulation have been quietened. As the mind rests and finds peace, it discovers sattwa, the quality of truth, but when it is restless, you lose clarity of mind. The yogic journey started from this idea.
The sages taught that through yoga, it is possible to overcome the restrictive conditionings of life: the restrictions in the mind, energy and body. It is possible to have an understanding and experience of the higher nature, the transcendental nature beyond the range of attraction and the gravitational pull of maya, which is very strong. In order to harness that energy and realize that consciousness, and then become free from the conditionings of life and the world, a system was developed. This system included physical practices, mental practices and many other types of practices, which could become the tools to transform the expressions of the faculties and energies that you normally express outwardly in your life.
The basic philosophy of yoga has been that it is a system by which one can integrate the faculties and the qualities of head, heart and hands. This was the statement of Swami Sivananda. Swami Satyananda says that the intellect, the emotions, the spiritual aspirations and the physical interaction with the world and society have to take place, and they will continue to take place. They can, however, occur in a better, more harmonious and selfless manner, rather than the dissipated manner in which you are living right now.
The dissipated nature of the mind is the cause of grief in everyone’s life, as the mind always has to attach and associate with something or somebody. People may have problems at home: a discord between husband and wife, a fight with the daughter-in-law or son-in-law, and grief is experienced. Why? It is because of an association, an attachment, an expectation. There can be discord in the office and you will feel the anxiety, grief and tension due to that. Everywhere, the mind becomes the cause of grief and tension, frustration and agitation. Therefore, yoga came upon a very simple process. The yogis said, “The mind is affected first; therefore, first manage the mind.” This is how Sage Patanjali also started: learn to manage the expressions of your mind. Learn to balance and harmonize the expressions of your mind.
In this manner, the subject of yoga evolved and developed as a way to move away from the conditioned nature of life, which causes grief, to the unconditioned nature where freedom and transcendence from conditionings are experienced.
19 August 2011, Ganga Darshan, Munger, printed in Yogadrishti Series: Yoga in Daily Life