Swami Satyananda Saraswati
Vienna, Austria, 1969
Hari Om Tat Sat
Not only in this country but throughout the world the yoga movement has gained a great momentum. Institutions after institutions and teachers after teachers are springing up in great numbers. In Australia, especially in the city of Sydney, with a population of three million people, there are more than 1000 yoga studios and in the Sixth International Yoga Convention which I inaugurated on the ninth of September this year, six hundred and eighty one yoga institutions were represented. In this way the movement of yoga is going from door to door and from shore to shore.
It appears as if a great revolution, of course it is spiritual and mental, is going to take place for the good of mankind. Behind this yoga movement all over the world there is no societal power that is working. Neither the power of money nor a military power, nor the power of religious institutions, nor the power of governments is behind this movement. It is the soul force in man. It is the spiritual craving which is a search after truth and the higher values of life that has brought yoga from door to door. It is not we who are preaching yoga, but it is you who are seeking. It is not the job of preachers and it is also not a preaching of yoga teachers, but really it is the demand, it is the need of the people of the world at large.
Practically and academically yoga may mean control of mind but really it is not. Yoga also does not mean discipline in the strict sense. The purpose, the aim of yoga is to evolve the higher awareness in every individual. That awareness is in him, and that awareness is a part of his being. Maybe in years to come, in generations to come, people might develop that higher and super awareness, that higher awareness, by which we know everything about ourselves. By means of that awareness by which we can know the nucleus and the center of our personality is only possible through yoga. Ordinary life is external. External life is in the senses. External life is in the objects of the world. It is empirical and it is not transcendental. It is mental, it is emotional, it is intellectual, it is physical and it is sensual. This external world is well known to us. But there is an internal world and that internal world is not a useless world. It has nothing to do with occultism. It has nothing to do with mysticism and it has nothing to do with some dark land or dimension. That inner world is a state, that inner world is a dimension of your personality and nothing different from it. This transcendental awareness is complete in itself. It includes the outer life; it does not exclude the outer life.
When one has that inner dimension of life, one can feel the outer world with greater perfection, with greater efficiency, and of course, with greater satisfaction and control. This is the purpose of yoga. The aim of yoga, let me make it clear to all of you, is not to make a man renounce life but to make man experience life from a higher viewpoint. Or rather, when you view a particular picture from a distance, you do not understand it; you know that there is a picture but what the picture is like you do not know. In order to have a clearer perception of the picture you have to get nearer to it. The distance between me and myself is so great that the influence of life on myself is not at all clear to myself. There are hundreds and thousands of emotions that are passing through our life, psychologically speaking, of which we are not aware.
What happens in the absence of awareness? We have worries and tensions. Diabetes, nervous breakdown, high blood pressure, thrombosis, cancer and whatever new diseases our medical men discover. All these are consequences of our ignorance of our own selves, because we do not know ourselves. Now, in order to know your own self, it is important that you get nearer to yourself; and to get nearer to yourself you need yoga.
Yoga, therefore, does not teach renunciation of life, it teaches an intuitive realization of life through, perception, interiorization, and acceptance of life. Yoga has nothing to do with miraculous powers. Those of you who have this view of yoga may take offense and not like it, but man wants to believe in miracles, it is his nature, but miracles are not a science and yoga has nothing to do with them. At the same time, people feel that due to yoga the brain becomes upset and abnormal. You exclude everything that life gives you. You have nothing to do with the family, nothing to do with children, and you are extricating yourself from all normal activities of life. No! The ultimate purpose of yoga is not this. All the practices that are taught in yoga are taught with a spirit of dedication to physical and mental hygiene. That is all. You must have heard about sanitation in the maintenance of a healthy environment in a city. In the same way we also need physical and mental sanitation. When we talk about physical sanitation or physical hygiene we use not only the asanas and pranayama, but we mean the practices of Hatha Yoga also. But when we talk about mental hygiene we mean a constant, unceasing and un-broken practice of meditation, Dhyana Yoga, as it is known.
Of course I believe in God, you may also believe in God, and we are not denying God. But the purpose of meditation is not to find God, but the purpose of meditation is to find the man in life. I understand the word man, and it is too difficult in this assembly to talk about God of whom I know little, but I can talk about man because I have knowledge about him. By the practice of dhyana, by the practice of meditation it becomes possible to come closer to yourself. The barrier between me and the external becomes much weaker. So much so, that in meditation you arrive at a time where you feel, “I am I.” and that is known as the knowledge of Self.
So the purpose of yoga is to develop a higher awareness in man, a finer awareness in man, a nobler and dignified awareness in man, and it includes non-violence, it includes purity of intension, it includes proper integration in your social life and in your society, etc. This higher awareness is not present in us now, because we are passing through a phase which is too dense with conflict and confusion.
Now, how do we practice yoga? It is very simple to say that yoga develops higher awareness and it may be of interest to you that the opposite of yoga is sensualism. There are two ways in life. Through one way you develop your awareness and if you go the other way there is the prospect of extinction and bereavement altogether. Just as we have children that are called mentally retarded, there are people in this world who are spiritually retarded. There is a process of spiritual evolution and there is a process of spiritual retardation. One is evolutionary and the other is devolutionary. When you practice meditation, the higher consciousness unfolds itself and intuition is accelerated, but if you go the other way the evolution is inhibited; and then there is a process of spiritual retardation. When there is spiritual evolution there is skill, there is confidence, there is nobility, and there is respect for yourself. But when there is spiritual retardation there are worries and anxieties and all kinds of confusions and psychological problems as well. That is what is happening in our society today, both in the east and in the west. The east has perfected the science of inner life, and the west has perfected the science of outer life, the technology. Neither the inner life nor the outer life is perfect. There has to be harmony between the two. The outer life and the inner life must go together, and then the purpose of yoga will be fulfilled, because yoga provides a basis for this unification.
So when you practice yoga, the first important thing to do is to have everything to do with the external life. There are many people especially in the west but in the east also that when they practice yoga they want to have nothing to do with the world and if one ask them if they are satisfied with their job, their duty, their parents, their family, their children, they will say no. That is the wrong approach. The moment you start practicing yoga and life has no value for you then you are practicing the wrong kind of yoga. But if you are practicing the right kind of yoga life becomes more powerful, life becomes more interesting, and life becomes surer. This means your yoga is going the right way. If you practice yoga exercises and you get hungrier it means you are doing it right. If you are practicing yoga exercises and there is apathy and there is no hunger then there is something wrong with your yoga or there is something wrong with your execution of it.
If you are practicing meditation it is true that you will become aware of yourself, but the moment you come out of meditation and you are not aware of your duties and your obligations, there is something wrong with your meditation. That is happening in most of the countries in the east and that is why they are lacking so many things that are external. According to yoga, life is internal and external both. The internal life is denoted by the word purusha, the higher spirit, the underlying consciousness in man; the center and nucleus of his personality and they call it purusha. The outer life, the external life is symbolized by the term prakriti, which is matter. All that can be energized, all that can be experienced by the senses and the mind, and the intellect, and the heart, and the emotions that is the outer world. So, the combination, the perfect balance between the inner life and the outer life has to be fought for. Religions have failed in this, and so yoga is needed for this. So yoga is coming into the forefront. Practicing only on the inner life and practicing only on the outer life is not the purpose of yoga. So the first thing when you practice yoga is to take external life as something very real, tangible and true, and not as something mythological, unreal and untrue as many philosophers have conceived it.
Life for a yogi is not a dream. Life for a yogi is not a myth. Life for a yogi is not unreal. Life for a yogi is not an illusion, it is absolute. For him the body is real. For him the pineal gland or the pituitary, the hormones, or the endocrinal secretions are absolutely real. He cannot deny it. Because when I am practicing yoga I have to accept all that is taking place in my body. I cannot deny it. At the same time I must understand the processes of consciousness, on the levels of the conscious, subconscious and unconscious. I have to appeal to it but I have to accept the flow of emotions, hatred, greed, love, the unconscious sources which I do not see, which I do not know. But I know them through concentration. So when you practice yoga you can investigate your bodily processes as well.
When you practice yoga you have to take three things into consideration, the physical life, the mental life and the spiritual life. You have to develop the physical life, the mental life and the spiritual life side by side. You cannot say I will practice Hatha Yoga for ten years, and then I will practice meditation for twelve years and then I will go on to samadhi after twelve years. You have to practice all these things side by side.
So the entire range of yoga, all the techniques of yoga should be understood and classified under the physical, mental and spiritual categories. By the word physical I mean the physical body: the nerves, sympathetic, parasympathetic, central, autonomous, peripheral nervous systems. I also mean the muscles, the endocrine and exocrine glands. I mean the systems, such as the respiratory, circulatory, and digestive and so on. When I talk about mental yoga or the mental techniques of yoga, I do not only mean the conscious processes of thinking, but I mean all those processes which have been investigated by the great psychologists and are still being investigated; psychological, as well as, para-psychological. All those state of consciousness, all those states of subtler consciousness which are not materialized in the body which are so deep, but we experience them in the form of thought, we experience them in the form of dream, and we experience them in the form of visions, and we do not experience most of them at all. There are techniques of yoga which can bring you face to face with your total mental life. I use the word total. There are techniques of yoga which can bring you through the totality of mental life.
Then comes the spirit, the spiritual yoga. The spiritual yoga is the highest form of yoga and it should be practiced with a true master not alone, by yourself. Because the spirit of man, I do not know if I could say it is not a point, and it is not just a purpose, it is everything that a man is. It is difficult for the person himself to be able to perceive or experience that highest spirit in him. It is with the help of the true master, guru as we call him, that one will have a glimpse of that higher spiritual life. So when you want to know what the techniques of yoga are and how do we practice them, my advice to all the aspirant is that they should do everything together.
Now, talking about the physical side of yoga, I think we have a lot of teachers here who are catering to the needs of the people. But I have to add only one thing. The asanas, the exercises, the pranayamas, the breathing exercises, mudras and the bandhas, and the systems of purifications of Hatha Yoga, they are not just exercises. For instance, sarvangasana, in which you lie down and put the legs up, shoulder stand as you call it, it is not just an exercise. It is a method of manipulating the thyroid gland which controls most of our emotions. It does not matter if you stay in sarvangasana for five minutes, and I do not disagree with those people who teach sarvangasana, I also teach it, if you make sidewise movements to the left and the right, it is perfectly alright, and that is exercise. But sarvangasana is not an exercise, it is a posture. The word asana does not mean exercise, it means posture. If you are maintaining a particular position of the body that is asana, it is not movement. So sarvangasana, the shoulder stand pose, is a posture, it is not an exercise. The purpose is to bring about an awakening in the thyroid system.
What is headstand for? Well, scientifically speaking, the headstand pose brings about a state of activity in the posterior pituitary. This is the conclusion of a team of scientists who have been working on this, and we know that the posterior pituitary secretes hormones that control your masculine and feminine life, that control your urges and emotions and sexual impulses in the body, and menopause, etc. Now, that is established by the practice of asanas. This is only to give you an example and to make it clear that the asanas are not exercises. They are postures which you assume and maintain in order to bring about awakening in those dormant centers of the body which are known as glands.
Pranayama is not breathing exercises as it is translated in English. I do not know how you translate it in German, but it is not breathing exercises. Pranayama means to increase the dimensions and the scope of the vitality in man. Prana does not mean the breath, prana means vitality. But this pranayama should be done with the help of the breath. Without the breath pranayama cannot be done. Now, during this period, the scope, the dimension of the vitality by the breathing exercise, is increased. Prana is the bodily energy. It is the power by which you are able to think, you are able to feel. It is the super power in man and that is known as pranashakti, the energy of prana, the vitality. The practices of Hatha Yoga about which I will say little about now, are the practices of purification, and as a very humble student of medical science I can tell you that the nervous imbalance can be completely cured just by the practices of Hatha Yoga, because all the practices of Hatha Yoga are intended to bring about a harmony between the sympathetic and the parasympathetic nervous systems.
I am sure you have heard the word Hatha Yoga before as denoting the physical exercises, that is not so. If I sit in the asanas it is not Hatha Yoga. Hatha Yoga is a system which influences two systems in the body, ‘Ha’ and ‘tha.’ Ha represents the solar or sympathetic nervous system and that represents the lunar or parasympathetic nervous system, and when the sympathetic nervous system and the parasympathetic nervous system work in perfect harmony there is peace of mind and there is absolute energy in man. There is bliss and there is great serenity and tranquility. But the moment there is nervous imbalance between these two there occur nervous breakdowns. The purpose of Hatha Yoga therefore, is to bring about a perfect harmony between these two nadis, between these two systems, the lunar system and the solar system. This is accomplished by means of the six systems of Hatha Yoga. That is all I want to say about this subject matter at the moment.
Coming to meditation, it is very important. I know that you are aware of meditation which simply means, concentrate the mind, think of one thing. But you have to train the mind according to its achievements, accomplishments and evolution. Mind or consciousness of man has five stages: the first is the balanced state of consciousness. The second is the oscillating state of consciousness. The third is the dissipated state of consciousness. The fourth state is the one-pointed state of consciousness and the fifth is the controlled state of consciousness.
You will have to understand and analyze whether you belong to the first or the second, or the third, or the fourth or the fifth. If your consciousness belongs to the first category, the technique will be according to that category. If your consciousness belongs to the second category then the techniques of yoga will be different and likewise for the third, fourth and fifth.
To give you an example, if the mind is completely broken, say that it is the mind of a business man, who has millions of dollars’ worth of property and business and industry and something happens and he loses it all. Now, ask him to meditate. It is impossible for him, and if he does it there will be a great deal of damage to his brain. I think that you might know about electro-physiology. In electro-physiology the current of consciousness works on an intermediate plane. There is the external and the internal, but there is also an intermediate plane where the consciousness gets stuck, it does not move and it goes thuck, thuck, thuck, etc. That is the state that has to be eliminated through yoga. I am talking to you in terms of time so that you people can understand it better. It happens in our life, it may be happening also to most of you.
If there is dissipation, if there is some great event in life, some great accident in life, it will be impossible for your physiological condition to attain that intermediate point, and this has been demonstrated experimentally already.
If your consciousness can stay in the intermediate point, for one minute, it is called dharana or visualization in yoga. If you can stay for three minutes it is called meditation or dhyana. If it can stay for five minutes in that intermediate plane, it is called Samadhi or cosmic consciousness. That particular state has to be achieved, but when the mind is completely dissipated it cannot stay at that one point. The physiological condition, the psychological condition, and the deeper condition of the brain are completely dispersed. In that condition, what is to be done? If there is a person here, who can just close his eyes and immediately go inside, there is no use teaching him things which will make him introvert.
So according to the Yoga Shastras, according to the science of yoga, human consciousness works, broadly speaking, roughly speaking, on five different levels. Therefore, all the techniques of meditation, concentration and one pointedness should be classified according to the evolutionary differences. If the consciousness is balanced, it has not developed or it is retarded, what yoga are you going to teach, what meditation are you going to teach? Please remember that the practices of meditation do not have one independent effect on the mind and the brain and the body. Broadly speaking there are different meditations but all of them have two effects. There are some meditations that bring about acceleration in consciousness and there are other meditations that bring about deceleration or depression in the consciousness.
Now it depends on your necessities. Do you need depression or do you need acceleration? Supposing your mind does not work well, you are lethargic or tamasic as we call it. Now if I give you a meditation which causes more depression or deceleration, you will have no ability to think at all. Maybe if you are a very intense person, full of inspiration, the intellect jumping like a monkey, and always kicking like a horse, and hissing like a snake, no rest and I teach you meditation that will make you more excited there will be even moreover-excitement. So the techniques of yoga are devised according to the evolutionary status of your consciousness. You cannot give one and the same meditation to everyone. The preparatory techniques of meditation which are called pratyahara are mostly applicable to all.
Let me give you another simple example. There is a practice called antar mouna, inner silence, or the technique of awakening the witness in man. It is a very simple technique. Even if you have hundreds and thousands of problems in your life, even if you cannot concentrate your mind even for a split second, it does not matter, you can practice antar mouna. If I ask you to lie down and concentrate on zero or Om, you will say that it is impossible for you because you are aware of the motor car, you are aware of the telephone ringing and at the same time you are aware that you will have to do some particular job tomorrow. Now, is it possible for such a man to develop a higher, a deeper and a singular state of consciousness? According to the practice of antar mouna, according to the practice of inner silence, it is possible. Even if you belong to the hopeless category, still there is a hope. You can bring about a state of tranquility, serenity in your mind, even though you cannot control your mind.
Coming to another point, all the practices of awakening the inner life in man consist basically of two methods. One is becoming one with supreme consciousness, forgetting everything that is outside. You must have seen Lord Buddha sitting in the lotus pose. That is one way. There is another way which most people have not heard about, and I will tell you about it tonight. The first way is the way of yoga and the second is the way of Tantra. One is the practice of going in, and the other is the practice of not going in but developing the inner outwards. One is the practice of ascending and the other is the practice of descending.
In the first, you close your eyes; you withdraw your mind, forget the external world and forget everything. Sit down for half an hour, calm and quiet, then come out and face the world. Some people are suited to this way.
The other way involves no concentration, no meditation, not control of the mind, but there is some practice to be done. With this practice the psychic centers in the body have got to be awakened, and when those centers in the body are awakened you develop a state of consciousness so that you live in the world, work in the world, you face the world, the difficulties, the problems, and at the same time you are at a higher level. These are the two methods, eternally known as the systems of yoga and Tantra, and the first one is known all over the world. But as far as I am concerned I can assure you that the second one is the easiest, easier in the sense that it is natural to life. It is so natural to us. Maybe if one of your psychic centers gets awakened, what will happen? You will see your father as father, your mother as mother, father and daughter, husband and wife as such, your office, job, money, car, television, everything, and nothing will vanish. But the depth of awareness will change.
You will be able to be conscious of this world from a different angle. This is a very important yoga, and the practices of this yoga are not well known, because of all you, including myself, have been believing for many years, that you can only go there by closing your eyes, and it is true. It is true you can commune with your inner self by closing your eyes, by going in. But is there no other way? Because we have time, it is good that there is another technique of yoga that is known as Tantra. Tantra is yoga, because it accomplishes two things: first, it expresses the consciousness, and second it liberates the consciousness. It is possible for everybody, belonging to any status in life, belonging to any religious denomination. Even if you do not believe in God, or belong to any strata of ethics and morality, it is possible to develop something peculiar in man, something unseen and imperceptible in man, that higher experience. But I want to tell you that this higher experience should be developed as a part of life, not away from life. So the aim of yoga is to develop the higher consciousness in man, and the techniques applied for this purpose should be in accord with your mental conditions and they either belong to yoga or
Tantra. Find out which is appropriate for you.
Hari Om Tat Sat