Meaning of Yoga Simplified
The single word ‘yoga’ includes nearly all activities undertaken for both worldly pursuits as well as those undertaken for spiritual upliftment. Yoga is naturally present in every living being at all times. Each day we eat, drink, read, listen and speak. We consider these activities natural and innate but all these are actually examples of yoga in our daily life. Successful accomplishment of any of these tasks requires complete concentration and focus which is what yoga is.
In the present times when most people hear the word ‘yoga’ they get discouraged by what they consider a monumental task, which is elusive and difficult to practice or achieve. Many feel that it cannot be successfully pursued while living as a family person and that until one renounces everything materialistic in this world, nothing will be accomplished. This is actually not true.
The word yoga literally means union or merger and becoming one. It is a state attained when we direct our complete attention and concentration to something that we truly desire. It can be either worldly or spiritual.
Have you ever had the experience of losing awareness of everything when reading a book, creating pottery or painting a picture or cooking or anything that we are interested in? We get completely immersed in it and lose awareness of everything other than that activity, thus becoming one with that activity. This state is nothing but yoga.
Why should we understand yoga and what will we gain from it?
Every living creature on this earth – animals or humans, seek only one thing and that is happiness, joy, or contentment. We take the trouble of going to school and colleges in hope that we will get employed, establish businesses, hoping to generate wealth which we think will bring us happiness.
Similarly, we seek happiness from marriage, children, big houses, fast cars and other material things. All of these things however are changeable and perishable. We become happy when we land a good job and sad when we lose one. We become happy when the business is running well and sad when we incur a loss. Even our own body which we love so much, keeps changing with time . We feel good about it when we are young and become sad as old age sets in. The entire human life is spent in the clutches of this dichotomy with the person helplessly pushed up and down in the never ceasing currents of life.
We were looking for happiness but we did not really find it. We were seeking peace and tranquility but they were nowhere to be seen. That is because the things that we thought would give us happiness are not stable and keep changing under the influence of an unknown power over which we have no control.
A beautiful flower in full bloom today wilts away in a few days. Similarly, we want to remain young but in due course our youth is taken away. We want to always remain healthy but diseases set in . The question arises as to why all these things happen against our wish. When we want to be happy, why do we keep encountering sorrow?
The Bhagwad Gita answers this question with vivid clarity when Lord Krishna says “Arjun, whether you choose to obey me or not, your position will always remain under my dominion. The body in which you reside is a machine made from my material energy. Based on your past karmas, I have given you the kind of body you deserved. I too am seated in it, and noting all your thoughts, words, and deeds. So I will also judge whatever you do in the present, to decide your future. Do not think you are independent of me in any condition. Hence Arjun, it is in your best interest to surrender yourself to me.”
Lord Krishna’s dialogues are telling us that we are not independent. We are all ruled by a superhuman power or God. The script of the ever changing things in life , the highs of happiness and the lows of sorrow is written by this superpower.
Since it is the nature of every living being to remain free, he wants to be free of this dominating superpower. Such freedom can only come to him when he becomes one with this superpower and gains control of it. The word yoga Is nothing but a union with this superpower, called God.
This is also salvation and liberation from worldly miseries. The desire for such union is innate in all humans because seeking freedom is our inherent nature. The happiness which eludes us when we look for it in the worldly pursuits is actually found in this union or yoga with God.
Where does happiness reside?
A question may arise as to where does happiness reside? The answer is – in our soul which is the seat of eternal joy and contentment, and which constantly radiates happiness. We don’t experience it because we have turned our attention outward, away from this internal source of never ending joy.
It is not easy to disengage from the external stimuli and concentrate inwards. Our mind by nature likes to wander outside just like a child who wants to keep playing outside the house and does not like to stay at home. If we set up a video game or an indoor activity which interests the child, he stays home and forgets to venture out. Similarly, we can trick our mind into concentrating inwards, which in due course connects us to our internal fountain of perpetual happiness.
Can yoga make you happy?
You should not consider yoga to be something very difficult or something that is beyond your capability. After all, you are already doing it for all your worldly activities as mentioned above. You do not have to do anything new and you do not have to learn anything new. The only thing you have to do is to redirect your focus and concentration inwards, as opposed to its current outward orientation. By just making this one adjustment, you can achieve solitude and salvation.
If you can devote even the spare time in your day for about 15 to 20 minutes, every morning and evening to this practice of internal concentration, then I can assure you that you can soon attain an advanced spiritual state and become a complete yogi. It might be difficult for some people to believe this but I am saying this based on my own experience. I have benefitted from this practice and I have seen this simple process work for many of my colleagues. You should discard the notion that it is a difficult task and try it for yourself to know this. You will not have to change anything in your professional or family life. You will see yourself its benefit within a week and start experiencing the state of calmness and peace in a matter of few days.
Any particular task can be accomplished in many different ways, some difficult and some simpler than others, just like a math problem which can be solved in many different ways. A problem may be solved by a student using a full sheet of paper and considerable time. The same problem can be solved by another student in a few minutes without using any pen and paper. Both students solve the problem but it was much easier for the second student because he used a more efficient and simpler method.
By the grace of my guru, I also happen to know a simple method for achieving spiritual advancement, an easy way of attaining peace and lasting happiness. I am always ready to share it with anyone who is interested because it is my ardent desire that everyone benefits from this simple practice.
Written by Guru Maharaj, Dr. Chaturbhuj Sahay Ji. Translated From Yoga Philosophy and Naveen Sadhana by Dr. Ajay Bhardwaj.