WHAT IS yoga? Is it a series of exercises in the Indian way, practiced to improve the body, to cure diseases, to get a certain tranquility so necessary in this rushing world? Is it thought control, silencing the mind, attaining certain powers by manipulation? Is yoga confined to the Hindus?
No. Yoga is a junction, a meeting with the Lord, with the Universal Consciousness, with the Supreme Self or one's own highest self. Any effort or method that brings about this union, this inner harmony, knowledge, love or understanding is yoga. To aspire for perfection, as Christ said, is yoga.
Who was a greater teacher of yoga than Christ? Did he not want a transformation of nature? Did he not preach love, tolerance, humility? After all, did he not teach by example rather than precept?
Yoga is not an oriental art of making money or making faces and practicing postures. There is no shortcut in yoga. Yoga is a lifelong discipline. Yoga is a way of life. Yoga is the highest life possible for mankind.
In the Gita, Sri Krishna says:
The virtuous men who worship me on earth
*Translated by Dilip Kumar Roy
Are of four kinds: He who's a derelict;
He who prays for a boon; He who is a seeker
Of the mystic lore and, lastly, the man of wisdom."*
In the modern world a fifth approach has come into existence. It seems to be a very popular approach too-not to bother about the Master at all but simply to forge one's own letters of recommendation. This is the approach of the professional yogis, the fortune hunters, the quacks. But then there are quacks in every walk of life, so why should one be surprised to find them in the field of spirituality? One thing which we often miss or ignore is that the very presence of quacks, imitations, frauds, only points up the existence of true yogis and saints. There would be no quack physicians if there had never been any authentic doctors. These men do debase the currency, but then that is what the majority of people want and so are attracted to them. The few who want the Truth get the Truth. "Ask and it shall be given to you, seek and you shall find, knock and the door will open" - as Christ said so beautifully.
The fundamental requirement of yoga is the same in all religions, that is, the transformation of our lower nature. If you have read all the scriptures in the world, mastered all asanas and postures, learned to sit still for hours, fasted for days, lived in sackcloth and ashes and suppressed all normal desires for joy-and yet your bigotry is intact, your personal ego has only bloated as part of a collective ego, you feel other religions, other prophets, other modes of worship are wrong and only your way is right, then you may be anything but you are not a yogi. A yogi is above religious chauvinism, narrowness and pettiness.
I love my guru and call him Dada. His elders in the family call him by his pet name and look upon him as their child. His friends call him Dilip. His guru, Sri Aurobindo, called him "a friend and a son, a part of my existence." Have I any right to object because others don't worship and adore him in exactly the same way as I do?
A yogi must be free from the shackles of pride, of false humility. It is more important to be than to seem.
The Gita speaks of three paths of yoga: jnan (knowledge), bhakti (love) and karma (works). The true yogi must follow the triune path, as Sri Aurobindo calls it. How can one love unless one knows, and how can one truly know unless one has the insight that only love can give? And, lastly, how can one express love except through service? A love that is content with only sentimentality and acrobatics may be self-love but it is certainly not God-love.
"Work is worship," Sri Aurobindo says. "Work is love made visible," Kahlil Gibran adds. An ordinary man works for his family and his own personal prosperity. A yogi performs all his works as a part of his worship. An ordinary artist says: "Art for art's sake"; a yogi artist: "Art for the Divine's sake."
When I say "Art for the Divin's sake," I speak from personal experience. For years I had learned Indian classical dancing, Manipuri, Bharat Natyam and Kathakali. Dancing gripped me as few things did. It brought a feeling of great harmony into my life. My body, my vital emotions, my surface mind expressed themselves through dancing. Yet, something was lacking. It was only after I came to Dadaji that he taught me to look upon dancing as worship by the body. I learned to offer my heart, my love and my entire being at His altar through dance, and the great Peace descended. Through dancing I became a part of that One Great Harmony. My anklets quivered in joy dancing to His melody. Some of my most beautiful experiences of Harmony, Bliss, Power and Sweetness came through dancing. That is why I say that music, art and poetry are so helpful to a yogi when he turns his genius to the service of the Divine.
How can one transform others if one has not substantially transformed oneself? One may become a good speaker and be able to hold a large audience, but if not even a few of those who listen find that they are better men as a result, what is the use? Except for the money one gets and the acclamation of the papers the next day, one only ends up collecting a number of mediocre people who are not much good to the world or the Divine.
If the leaders of our nations did practice a little bit of yoga, what a wonderful place this world would be. They would have the humility that comes from inner strength. They would have the tolerance and understanding that are the result of discrimination born of knowledge. They would know that the strongest of us are mere puppets either in the Divine's hands or in the grip of the anti-Divine forces. Finally, they would realize that it is not by criticism, still less by coercion, but only by love that one can change others.
A world of true yogis, led by yogis, leading to the one Supreme Yogi. What a dream!