For thousands of years in the East, sages of the past have contemplated the human condition and how to work with our basic problems. Through deep meditation, inner reflection and self-realization these great men and women have found a way through suffering to happiness. They called this path to truth and happiness Yoga.
Yoga means to unite, to yoke together the small sense of self with the great Self of all beings. It may come as a surprise to some who have only know yoga as a type of exercise, but yoga is actually an ancient philosophical base of esoteric wisdom that has been foundational to the development of a number of world religions including Buddhism, Hinduism and Jainism. These are ancient teachings but they hold true even in today’s world.
In the 8-fold path of yoga, laid down by Patanjali in a seminal text called The Yoga Sutras,written in about 200AD, a clear life style is outlined that not only emphasizes meditation, breath work (pranayama) and yoga postures (asanas) but also practices for how we live our daily lives and relate to those around us. These practices are called Yama and Niyama. They are practical guidelines that help us live our lives in such a way as to make our thinking clear and our perception subtle, so that we can really understand what love means and how to express our hearts in the world.
The practices of Yama and Niyama give us guidance on how to really be a spiritual beingin this world and prepare our minds so that we can experience directly the One Eternal Divine Self of all beings. In yoga no beliefs are taken for granted, just on faith. The whole focus of yoga is about personal experience, your personal realization of fundamental truths. This starts with learning how to live love in your life in the world here and now!
The Yamas are things to avoid, and of course their flip side:
The Niyamas are practices to incorporate:
Next week we will start by talking about non-violence, Ahimsa. A big topic; the root of the civil rights movement, the base of Gandhi’s work freeing India form British rule, a base for South African protests, a very important concept not only in world movements but in each of our lives. Stay tuned for next week!
Hello Again Dear Friends,
This past Sunday at our meditation evening here at the Ashram, I was really inspired by the discussion after meditation exploring the Baba talk that had happened. The topic we were discussing dealt with the highs and lows of life. Everyone’s life has times when it seems it is all good and you are on top of the world and other times when life is really a struggle and difficult things are happening.
There are two basic reasons for this. The first is that we are identified with our body and mind, the small ego self. Our sense of welfare and happiness revolves around this personal idea of who we are in the world. The second reason is that the world around us, not to mention the entire universe, is large and all the other beings have needs as well. They are trying to find their happiness just as we are, but in the play of life the needs of all individuals flow together... sometimes in opposition to each other and are subject to the laws of nature. Sometimes you are the hunter and sometimes the hunted. It’s just how it goes.
Observing life, the yogis of the past realized that most people, and really most living beings, are stuck in a no win scenario. We struggle to acquire what we desire our need to be well off and happy and we fear anything that will cause serious loss, illness or death. But life has both of these elements - happiness and pain, health and illness, birth and death. Our struggle to avoid one and cling to the other becomes the real source of our pain and suffering.
Yogis contemplating deeply realized to find happiness we need to be able to embrace both our joy and our pain. As long as we keep running and fearing, the inevitable chases us. But when we stop and really look at life deeply we can discover the deeper stream of happiness, the love that runs through all human experiences because it is our fundamental core. When we do this we become able to really embrace life in all its fullness, really love unconditionally and find the deeper meaning and happiness that lies with in our own being. And we discover compassion.
Best wishes and blessings,
Maetreyii Ma: a teacher of yogic wisdom & practices