by Swami Sivananda
THE SUPREME GIFT
Yoga is the supreme gift of India to the world at large. Yoga does not quarrel with science; it supplements it. Yoga is a methodical way to attain perfection, through the control of the different elements of human nature -both physical and psychical.
Yoga is the supreme science of contacting reality. It is perfection in action. It is equanimity of attitude. It is perfect peace. Yoga is union with God.
Yoga is not a thing merely to be heard. Yoga is a thing that has to be assimilated and put into practice in daily life. The practice of yoga enables one to realise unity with the whole world. It is living in tune with God.
Yoga is abiding by the principles of truth and avoiding the path of untruth. Yoga is a science which is meant for the study of the reflective. It is for those who are convinced that the world of the senses has nothing substantial to offer.
Yoga is a process of continuous transformation. The inner perfection of self-realisation can only come to be revealed by experience. This happens only progressively. The transformation of one’s personality is achieved through stages.
As you advance in yoga, the ego is progressively replaced by the spirit. It is through this that the will of God works. By the practice of yoga, the sadhaka (seeker) is freed from the tyranny of the lower mind and he becomes divine. At a later stage the transformation takes the shape of a progressive unfoldment of the spirit.
A preceptor or guru is indispensable for the practice of yoga. The aspirant should be humble, simple, gentle, refined, tolerant, merciful and kind. You will not have success in yoga if you have desire to get psychic powers. Yoga does not consist of sitting cross-legged for six hours, nor in stopping the heart-beat, nor in getting buried in the ground for a week or a month.
YOGA IS ETERNAL LIFE
Yoga is a perfect and practical system of self-culture. Yoga is an exact science, it aims at the harmonious development of the body, the mind and the soul.
Yoga is the turning away of the senses from the objective universe and concentrating it on the mind within. Yoga is eternal life in the spirit.
Yoga aims at controlling the mind and its modifications. The path of yoga is an inner path, whose gateway is your heart.
Yoga is the discipline of the mind, the senses and the physical body. It helps to control and co-ordinate the subtle forces within the body.
Yoga brings perfection, peace and everlasting happiness. Yoga helps you in your business and also in your daily life. Through yoga you can have a calm mind and a peaceful sleep.
Through yoga you can also have increased energy, vigour, vitality, longevity and a high standard of health. Yoga transmutes your animal nature into divine nature. It raises you to the pinnacle of divine glory and splendour.
The practice of yoga will help you to control your emotions and passions. It will give you the power to resist temptations and to remove disturbing elements from the mind.
Yoga enables you to keep a balanced mind always. It removes fatigue. It confers on you serenity, calmness, and wonderful concentration. It will enable you to hold communion with the Lord and thus attain self-realisation.
If you want to attain success in yoga you will have to abandon all worldly enjoyments. You will have to practise tapas, (austerity) and brahmacarya (celibacy).
To curb the mind you have to use intelligent and judicious methods – because, if you use force, the mind becomes more turbulent and mischievous. Those who try to control the mind by force are like those who endeavour to bind a furious elephant with a silken thread.
WHAT IS YOGA?
Yoga is the science that teaches us the way, the most effective way, how to remove our defects and weaknesses, and how to attain the state of perfection, freedom and super-conscious blessedness. The state in which there is union with the absolute.
Yoga enables its students to acquire perfect control over the physical body, the mind and the senses. Yoga shows you the marvellous method of rising from evil to goodness and from goodness to godliness, and then from godliness to divine splendour.
Yoga is a search for truth. It raises a man to spiritual eminence. This form of self-education is called yoga. The yogi observes the law of moderation at all times. He treads the middle path. He does not torture his body, but he does regulate his eating and sleeping. He does regulate his talking and working.
Yoga is your unique heritage. Proceed upon this path gradually and steadily. Nothing can be achieved overnight. But steady practice will certainly bestow great blessings in the long run. Yoga has an unparalleled utility and curative value not yet tapped by modern medical science.
The practice of yoga is not opposed to any religion. It is not opposed to any sacred church. It is purely spiritual and universal in its teachings. It does not contradict anyone’s sincere faith.
Yoga does not want you to turn away from life; it demands spiritualization of life. Yoga brings about physical and spiritual development, side by side. And finally, yoga enables the aspirant to attain blissful union with the supreme being. When yoga gets ripened, it becomes the super-conscious state. It becomes the state called nirvikalpa samadhi (realisation of the absolute).
Apply yourself tenaciously to self-enquiry and meditation. Be vigilant. Be diligent. Kill thoughts and desires of the world, through holy desires. Slay unholy thoughts with holy thoughts. Thus gain victory over your destiny. There is a vast ocean of knowledge within you. Unfold. Become a jivanmukta (a liberated soul). Remember, God helps those who help themselves.
THE LADDER OF YOGA
There are people who have not been able to serve their preceptors, who have not done any selfless service, or any devotional practices, who have not had the heart to treat other children with the affection they show to their own, who may not have had the heart to help others who were in severe distress – and yet, they sit and speak high philosophy. They sit and speak of cosmic love, of cosmic vision and of their own spiritual experiences and realisation (brahma jnana). They repeat the mantra Sivoham Sivoham (“I am Siva”) – or the mantra Aham Brahma Asmi (“I am the infinite”) – every few minutes. They wish to be in contact with great avataras (incarnations of God) this very second.
Place your foot, step by step, very cautiously, on the different rungs of the ladder of yoga. Ascend very gradually to the summit. Be earnest in your sadhana (practice). Equip yourself with the necessary qualifications. Do not waste your time in search of a preceptor. When you are ready, you will enter the halls of wisdom. And there, waiting on the threshold, you will find your preceptor.
Sage Vasishta says: “I assure you. on the authority of my own intuitional knowledge, as well as that of other illumined souls, that the reality can be realised by man. But one who has known it cannot communicate it to others, for want of means.” Even the knowledge acquired by the five senses, which are common to all, cannot be communicated to others. You cannot tell the taste of butter to a man who has never tasted it. Nor can you communicate the idea of colour to a man born blind.
All that a teacher can do is to tell his disciple the method of knowing the truth. All he can do is to tell the disciple of the path that leads to unfoldment of the intuitional faculty.
If you have a burning desire, like Lord Buddha, if you possess patience and forgiveness, and if you have devotion to the preceptor – then you can contact avataras and sages right now, this very second.