Sunday, February 20, 2011

Purpose of Yoga

The frogs do not have to worry about Yoga. Neither do the eagles have to. But, the ancient seers found it necessary for humans to. The only reason I am able to conceive of is that humans, as a society, stand a chance of living in a fashion that is free of violence and is full of peace. But it is no mean task, for, though we stand a chance, the forces of nature bind us strongly. Unless a significant majority of humans free ourselves from the bindings of the material manifestations of nature (which includes ones own mind), peace in human society will be a distant dream. This freeing up of oneself in all aspects is Yoga and in its essence it is an attempt to directing the natural process of evolution. This peace cannot be achieved without inner and outer development, for one cannot exist for long without the other. This directing of our energies towards peace is the fundamental and only purpose of Yoga. Towards this, individuals, who are the basic building blocks of society need to be educated to find that space of purity within, the space within, where there is neither birth nor death, neither past nor future, and to let skillful action emerge from that space in order to bring about a peaceful society.

While this is the singular unifying philosophy, the modus operandi varies tremendously with different people. The process of going towards this varies with individuals and their natural capabilities and inclinations. Towards this, the so called various branches of yoga have emerged. While superficially they appear different, they cannot really be classified into different schools as all of their purposes is the same. The purpose of eating is a valuable analogy. There really is one purpose for it - to nourish body, mind and soul. But, depending on the individual, the actual kind of food varies. But, by and large, all individuals need some of all kinds of food though proportions may vary. Some of the popular branches are:
  • Karma Yoga - Here, one works on the external world (non-egoically and dharmically) and through which evolve themselves.
  • Gnana Yoga - Here, one understands human nature and by using wisdom and intellectual understanding, one evolves and also assists others.
  • Bhakthi Yoga - Through devotion to the supreme, one can discover the space of divinity within and also hold that space for others to easily join them there.
  • Raja Yoga - For those who are on the path of self empowerment of every aspect of them - mind, body, intellect and the soul.
  • Other esoteric disciplines (Hatha / Kundalini / etc) - They work on the body mind connection. The mind affects the body and the body affects the mind. These other disciplines work on this connetion to bring about a transformation in the individual.
Ultimately, since the purpose of yoga is one, all practitioners should necessarily try to incorporate the best practices from all the disciplines into their lives. An item when cooked in different houses will have the various ingredients in different proportions. But, ultimately all of them need to use all the ingredients. Similarly, Yoga is much larger than any one of the ingredients.

There is an urgent need to go beyond these superficial and narrow definitions of Yoga (yoga for fitness / weight loss etc) and really look at it the largest perspective of Yoga and align ourselves with it. In my opinion, unless this grand unifying purpose is discovered and deeply imbibed in our lives, it is not Yoga.

PS: A small write up I wrote as part of an assignment in my yoga teacher training course (slightly differs from the original)

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