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Insights I have gained from Yoga Sadhana
By Usha S Sri-Skanda-Rajah
Insights I have gained from Yoga Sadhanai
It wasAurobindo who said and rightly so that “the world, as God made it, is not a rigid exercise in logic but, like a strain of music, an infinite harmony of many diversities, and His own existence being free and absolute cannot be logically defined. Just as the best religion is that which admits the truth of all religions, so is the best philosophy, that which admits the truth of all philosophies and gives each its right place.”
And so I believe that behind all the diversity there is a unity to be found; the one universal truth that binds us all. Accordingly the one common thread that unites us is the indisputable reality that we came from our maker and will go back to our maker; and of that maker, there can’t be more than one; and that maker is the embodiment of love, compassion and grace. It is through Yoga Sadhana that I have come to be convinced of this truth and never to doubt it; the realization coming from the inner core of my being; one that has been firmly established, the universal truth of One God – One Humanity.
For one who has been taught Yoga in the traditional way under Guru Ramanan, of Insudar Yoga Studio, a disciple of Siddhananda Saraswati Yogi of Nallur Jaffna, Northern Sri Lanka who followed the strict yogic practice as enunciated by Swami Sivananda, I can’t see it any other way.
Thirumular the great Siva Yogi who gave us the Thirumanthiram professed this truth in his Tamil dictum “Onre kulam, Oruvane Thevan”, meaning: there is only one race and that is the human race and the Lord we worship is one; and only one. The Thirumanthiram, a scriptural classic, central to the Saiva Siddhanta Philosophy has 3000 verses uttered by Thirumular, which were rendered it is believed when ever he came out of Samadhi, the state of God consciousness; this whole treatise, an outpouring of profound spiritual truths of the ultimate reality recorded for posterity, fortunately by his disciples, to be learned and practiced with as much relevance centuries later.
The meaning of Yoga is ‘Union’: “It is a method by which the individual may become united with the Godhead, the reality which underlies this apparent, ephemeral universe. To achieve such a union is to achieve a state of perfect Yoga,” declares Patanjali in his Yoga Sutras (aphorisms) and so interpreted in the book: How to Know God by Swami Prabhavananda and Christopher Isherwood.
The word ‘Union’ could mean a union, a harmony between the body, mind and spirit; a union between the individual and its creator; a union between God and the devotee; a union between the individual soul and the supreme soul. This source, the universal source, call it what you will, depending upon a person’s belief, be it Krishna, Buddha, Christ, Allah, or Elohim, or Siva, or Self, or Brahman, is but ‘One’.
Yet Yoga is not a religion but it is adaptable to all religions; many have said Yoga has helped them to practice their faiths with more conviction. On the other hand Yoga is not to be compared to the type of Physical Training (PT) practiced at schools or exercise workouts at the gym. In my view Yoga is definitely a spiritual philosophy that is based on the fundamental principle of universality of the ultimate source, God.
It is my belief that as our practice evolves and our awareness deepens we begin to realize the true meaning of Yoga and what that ‘Union’ truly signifies and all questions will be answered from with in, not from external resources alone, not requiring proof by empirical facts at all, but from our own experience as we embark on this journey of finding the Inner Self, our true divine nature and connecting with that ultimate Universal Source.
Satguru Sivaya Subramaniya Swami who founded the Kauai Monastery in Hawaii, chief disciple of Yohar Swami (a much revered recluse from Jaffna, Northern Sri Lanka), says it most powerfully and profoundly in his book Dancing with Siva that “we are souls on a wondrous journey; that we came from God, live in God and are evolving into oneness with God.”
Guru Anmol Mehta of Mastery of Meditation and Yoga defines Yoga “as a pathway to bring you to a realization that you and that Universal Source are inseparably one,” and that “the ultimate goal of Yoga is to re-unite with the Universal Source.
Yoga, this ancient art, science, philosophy or lifestyle, how so ever you approach it, is a gift to be treasured. That Yoga is “the oldest system of personal development in the world encompassing the body, mind and spirit,” is a truism affirmed by many great masters and reaffirmed in The Sivananda Companion to Yoga, a guide book to Yoga.
We can name three great ancient Yogis, who are known proponents of this philosophy; they are one: the author of Hatha Yoga Pradeepika, known as Swa-Atma-Rama; meaning one who revels in his own Atma (soul), two: Patanjali the author of the Yoga Sutras, three: Thirumular the author of Thirumanthiram.
It is said in Hatha Yoga Pradeepika that Yoga is a “sanctuary from pain and suffering” and that Hatha Yoga, a set of disciplines involving Asanas and Pranayama is the “stairway to Raja Yoga (meaning practice of meditation).”
Both Patanjali and Thirumular promulgated the same eight limbed path to Yoga called Ashtanga Yoga, although in my view neither borrowed from the other – theirs was a knowledge acquired through a deep sense of awareness, resulting in insights in to Yoga, discovered through unknown number of years of contemplation and meditation; another reason to believe that Yoga is universal.
The eight steps to Ashtanga Yoga are: Yamam (restrains) Niyamam (virtues and observances), Asanam (yoga postures), Pranayamam (the means of controlling and infusing Prana, the life force, through certain breathing exercises and kriyas), Pratiakaaram (withdrawal of the senses), Tharanam (concentration), Thianam (meditation) and Samadhi (God Conscious state); each step or discipline, a preparation for the next. Samadhi the eighth and final step leading to complete union is described by Thirumular as the essence of the individual merging with the essence of the Universal. The first step, Yamam and the second, Niyamam are both prerequisites to the six other disciplines, involving the practice of proper conduct and virtues, found in all beliefs, leading to purity of mind, fundamental for spiritual growth and meditation in particular.
With consistency and commitment, the practitioner will slowly but surely discover the great benefits that this Sadhana offers that is truly empowering. The practitioner will learn the secrets to relaxation, the way to a stress free life, to making the body healthy, strong and supple and in balance with the mind that is centered, calm and at peace; the practitioner will be trained in the art of maintaining the right positive attitudes and conduct and as well as eating healthy, all leading to sound physical and mental health.
We can make true happiness our reality through regular practice of Yoga. The source of joy and wisdom is undoubtedly inside us and Yoga helps us to discover it and integrate it in our daily lives.
Thus Yoga is a powerful uniting and empowering force, can be practiced by anyone and is adaptable to any religion or spiritual philosophy. Try it, commit to practicing it with dedication and you will understand what is truly meant by ‘One God – One Humanity’.
Usha S Sri-Skanda-Rajah – Nov. 28, 2011