YOGA IS A SUPER-SCIENCE, NOT A PART OF ANY RELIGION ...
There have been needless controversies and legal debates in the US and elsewhere as to whether Yoga is a part of Hindu religion, whether it should be taught in the schools,etc. What an ignorance !
People don't know that there is actually nothing like Hindu Religion. People living on the banks of the river Indus were called Hindus and the land was called Hindustan or India over time. The actual religion is Sanatan Dharma which literally means Universal and Eternal Religion. The oldest religion in the world civilization, it's a way of life, not a set of dogma.
In ancient Sanskrit literature, Dharma has many meanings. In one of its deepest connotations, it means Righteousness in thought, speech and action. Sanatan Dharma is basically monotheistic. It believes in One God, and in the divinity of every being. It believes that in the final analysis nothing except God exists - Vasudevah Sarvam iti.The 330 million gods and goddesses of ancient India are representations or expressions of different attributes of One God.
Nor do people really understand what is Yoga. The word has deep meanings. In the Gita, aptly considered by those who really understand it, as the finest management manual ever put to print, Lord Krishna says 'Yogah Karmasu Kaushalam' (meaning, Yoga is effectiveness in action), in another chapter it is said 'Samatvam Yoga uchyate'(Yoga is balance between opposites and equanimity amidst mental fluxes), etc. This effectiveness cannot be called Hindu, Christian, Muslim, Buddhist etc. Nor is this balance or equanimity limited by any religion.
Happiness, wellness, peace etc. also cannot be parts of any cult or religious sect. They are universal needs. Meditation, the essence of true yogic practice which leads to the final stage of Samadhi or Union with Spirit, cannot be limited to any single faith either. It is a spiritual practice and so it transcends all divisive dogma.
Yoga is Yujir (to connect) and Yuj (to manage). Unless we connect, we cannot manage. But there are many don'ts in Yoga, and there are many things that Yoga is not. Let us understand.
Ashtanga Raja Yoga, the ultimate blend that makes a scientific path for the final Union, begins with Yama : the five Don'ts. No violence (in thought, speech and action) ; No lying or untruth ; No irresponsible sensual indulgence ; No theft or craving for things not yours ; No hoarding of things more than your actual need. Similarly, we have the 5 Do’s (Niyama) : Shouch (Cleanliness in body and mind), Santosh (Contentment), Tapa (rigorous self-discipline), Swadhyaya (study of scriptures and self-study) and Ishwar Pranidhan (devotional surrender to God). Together these are like, and very similar to, the Ten Commandments in the Old Testament..
Yoga is not mainly for the body, and it is not just, or mainly about, Yogasana - as most people in the West tend to think. The ultimate aim of Yoga is to help us transcend ourbody consciousness - our chief hurdle.
Nor do you ignore the body, for that matter, in Yogic practices. Body does have its own important place in 'sadhana' (spiritual practice), but only as a means, not the end.
And that's the central point ; we 'have' bodies but we 'are' not them.
The right attitude to the body is like that of a conscientious employer to the employee ;the body is, in the enlightened words of St. Francis of Assisi, the 'Brother Donkey', a beast of burden. In "Saints That Moved the World", it is said that when Saint Francis was building the church at San Damian, he "designated his own body to serve him as beast of burden. He lifted heavy stones, one at a time, and said: 'Now, Brother Donkey, carry it to San Damian.' And when Donkey Body broke down at times under the great burden, driver Francis would encourage and calm him and sternly he would add: 'Brother Donkey, the Father wills it, we must hurry.' Then Donkey Body would obey."
So we neither indulge in, nor exploit, neither pamper, nor torture the body. We just take care of it as an aware owner will take care of his vehicle, and go beyond it. If you are attached to the car you have, you won't be able to leave it at the destination ; nor would you be sure of arriving at it if you did not maintain it, letting it break down on the way !
The next hurdle is the Mind which has been compared by Sw. Vivekananda to "a drunken money, generously fed on liquor, bitten by a scorpion and possessed by a devil's soul " , and verily so it is, unless disciplined. What is the best way to discipline it ? Pranayama and right living.
The mind is neither just the brain nor all of our Consciousness. The mind rules the brain which is its hardware or the CPU, and itself is that limited part of Consciousness which is defined and bound by Time and Space coordinates.
That part in us who only likes and dislikes, and is driven by sensual pleasures and displeasures, is the lower mind (Manas). It is like the rein in a chariot, supposed to control the wild steeds of the five senses but usually unable, unless firmly in the hands of the charioteer - that part of us which insists that what feels unpleasant may be good for us, or that which is so pleasant in doing (overstuffing the tummy with that big burger or pizza or another drink, for example) may actually be bitter in result. It is the higher mind, the discriminating intellect (Buddhi).
But it is the Soul, the true seat of Consciousness, that knows the best and feeds ultimate wisdom through meditation-born intuition.
Next, Yoga is not evasion from work. You can't say, ‘I am not attached to this world, it is all Maya, I don't have any desires - so why should I work’ ? Even Sanyasins work - for helping and uplifting others in the society. They may in fact work much harder than the worldly people. Dutiful action is a kind of Yoga (Karma Yoga), if implemented without attachment to fruits, and can be as liberating as meditation.
My Master, Paramahansa Yogananda, author of "Autobiography of a Yogi' (www.yogananda-srf.org and www.yssofindia.org) taught that meditation plus right activity is the ultimate key. We have to strike the right balance.
Human beings are the same in their soul-essence, regardless of age, gender, nationality, religion etc., and they have more or less the same challenges. The world deludes us to find easy short cuts, to invent simplistic cosmetic treatments within our comfort zone. But the real solutions are in raising Self-Awareness and Self-Management through a yoga-aided holistic motivational coaching. When we know ourselves, we understand the Universe....'Yatha Pinde, Tatha Bramhande' (meaning 'as in the body, so in the Cosmos'). This is actually so. Doesn't every atom resemble a solar system, with the nucleus as a sun and orbiting electrons as planets ? Didn't R.W. Emerson say, 'the world globes itself in a drop of dew'.
When we manage ourselves, we manage all that we need to. It is truly amazing how people from all nationalities, faiths, cultures have resonated to India's spiritual wisdom and yogic concepts. The wisdom of Sanatan Dharma is truly universal - non-sectarian, non-dogmatic, with no cult, no indoctrination with any hidden agenda.
India accepts and respects all faiths as true ; we don't need to convert people - whether with sword or with humanitarian service - we change people by transforming the way they look at themselves.
True Self-Perception - Samyak Atma-darshan - is the highest learning. In the quest of an answer to the eternal query 'Who Am I', is true education, true inner growth.
Yoga reveals to us gradually the dreamlike nature of the universe (uni + verse, one Divine Song of Aum, Hum, Amen or Ameen). and progressing on the path of Yoga, doing regular meditation, listening to the song of Aum (Shabda, the Holy Ghost) within, the advanced Yogi lives in the world, but is never of it, as my Master beautifully describes. His books 'God Talks With Arjuna' and 'The Second Coming of Christ',new commentaries in the light of Yogic wisdom respectively on the Gita and the Bible, are very sublime and uplifting for seekers of all faiths, everywhere.
Yoga is not a religion, it is a super-scientific spiritual practice. It is for all - just asKrishna's and Christ's love is universal, just as rain and sunshine are God's gifts to all his children, regardless of any man-made division. Religion has a set of practices, dogma, belief-systems etc. But spirituality is about right conduct. Yoga teaches right attitudes to and conduct with oneself and with others by realizing them as actually one's larger Self. Yoga takes one ahead in the inner journey from a limiting 'I' of 'me and mine' to the Universal Self of One Spirit and All Life.
Findings in Quantum Physics on Consciousness, in PNI and Neuro-cardiology on the power of a positive mind and the power of love, scientific findings on Aura and Brain Waves etc. are the bridges between Science and Religion. And Yoga, my Master aptly says, is the Science Of Religion.
Peace unto all, God bless us all. Sarve Bhavantu Sukhinah ....'May all be happy and well.'
Motivational Speaker, Corp. Trainer & Yoga Coach
Source : My Master's grace, my personal practice of Kriya Yoga for nearly 3 decades and my observations from training / coaching tens of thousands in India and abroad in Yogic techniques like Yama-Niyama, Surya Namaskar, Pranayama, Meditation etc. Everyone can really benefit from a sincere practice of yoga regardless of any man-made division of gender, nationality, culture or faith, etc.