Yoga and Life

February 2, 2011 § Leave a comment

There exists a common belief, certainly an erroneous one,

among the majority that Yoga is for those, who live in caves and forests, in

monasteries and nunneries, away from the busy world, in seclusion,

minding their own business without the least concern about other

fellow-beings, renouncing the normal pleasures of life and aiming at

some postmortem happiness, in some far-off unknown worlds not seen by

any one so far.


While these recluses give up all the happiness of this world,

the happiness in the form of enjoyments

afforded by rich and affluent family life with all the modern

facilities, high status in society, name and fame and the like, in

the name of spiritual renunciation, the vast majority of people are

not sure of the future happiness aimed at by these recluses. Thus

arguing, most people shun all the higher values of life, which

religion and philosophy offer. This is a sad mistake resulting from

want of the right knowledge about life in this world.


Renunciation of the world is found to be the common factor in all

scriptures dealing with Liberation as the only sure remedy for all our

sufferings here in this world. This may sound strange. One who wants

good has to renounce the bad. This is understandable. He who desires

truth should renounce untruth.


There cannot be any difference of opinion in this also.

One who is after life should naturally give

up death. None will deny these logical conclusions. But, if what is

intended in the renunciation of the world is giving up of our normal

life with all sense-experiences, what remains in our life?




The remedy seems to be worse than the illness! This conclusion is a

result of not understanding the real import of the scriptures. Vedanta

does in no way find fault with this world, but certainly instructs

man, who is after Liberation, to renounce it.


It is not renunciation resulting from a dislike and hatred of this world. It is

renunciation by covering, the world with God, in the language of the

Isavasya Upanishad, filling the world with God. We are asked to

renounce the world of our present erroneous conception and realise

its true nature. In short, to see the world as God is real

renunciation of the world, prescribed by the seers, who have seen the



Just as the different parts of a big banyan tree, such as its underground roots,

the aerial roots, the stem, the branches,

the leaves and the fruits, though appearing separate, are yet not

different from the tree; just as our limbs, the legs, hands, eyes,

ears and mouth, though seemingly separate, are not distinct from the

body; just as the various parts of a huge modern machinery are all inter-connected and serve the

common purpose for which the machine has been erected, likewise, the

umpteen objects which we see here and which we consider as separate

entities are not independent and disjointed, but form a whole to make

up this universe, an organic whole by itself.


The least disturbance in any corner of this vast cosmos, let it be in the most

insignificant object, affects the whole cosmos, even as the slightest

pin-prick in any part of our body is felt by the whole being. A

scientific analysis of any object here, say a chair, will prove that

it is made up of atoms which are finally reducible to forces.


When we perceive through the intellect, these forces that constitute the

chair, the chair as such vanishes; and when the chair is seen, we do

not perceive the forces, These forces have Consciousness as their

substratum. No hair-splitting arguments are necessary to prove that

nothing can exist without Consciousness.

Pure Consciousness is therefore the basic reality. It is the perceiving principle, the

object perceived and the principle of perception also. In other

words, Consciousness which cannot but be one, homogeneous and non-dual,

and therefore eternal and immortal, is called by the different names

of seer, seen and sight, hearer, hearing and heard, knower, known and

knowledge, and so on.


Again, it is this Consciousness alone that is referred to through different names,

such as Brahman or Atman by

Vedantins, Bhagavan or God by devotees, Vishnu or Narayana by

Vaishnavas, Siva or Paramesvara by Saivites. Other religions of the

world give different names for this one Principle, the Truth Supreme.

It is called as Christ by the Christians, Allah by the Muslims, Arhat

by the Jainas and Buddha by the Buddhists.


The truth about the relationship between God and the world is beautifully brought out

in a simple Tamil verse which means: The wood is veiled by the

elephant and into the wood disappears the elephant; even so, elements

veil the Truth and into Truth disappear the elements.


The reference is to a life-size elephant made out of black wood by an

expert carpenter. The likeness is complete. Though the eyes perceive the

form of an elephant, the intellect and the mind will perceive the

wood of which it is made. It is the form of the elephant that veils

the wood and when the truth of the wood is seen, the elephant

disappears. Likewise says the verse, this world made up of the five

elements veils the Consciousness, and when one realises the latter,

the former dissolves itself.


Knowing, experiencing and becoming one with the Consciousness is Yoga.

This Yoga practice

varies according to individual temperament. The rationalistic, the

devotional, the active and the mystic temperaments, with their countless

permutation-combinations, make the Yoga practice of each individual

distinct from those of others. Strictly speaking, no two aspirants

can follow an exactly similar method. Notwithstanding this, there are

common factors in the methodology adopted by all seekers.


Not a few in this modern world are benefited by a combination of the

essentials in the different Yoga systems. Hence it is that sages

prescribe this wise mixture—a little of Japa, a little Asana and

Pranayama, study of some scriptures, worship of one’s tutelary deity,

selfless service, concentration and meditation—especially for the

neophytes in the spiritual path.


When they go on practising all these intelligently and sincerely for a sufficiently long time, each

one finds himself attached to that particular Yoga which is best

suited to his temperament or natural turn of mind acquired as a

result of the Karmas done in innumerable past lives, the others

dropping off without his knowledge. And further concentration along

the lines of the one particular Yoga with one’s whole personality—not

as a hobby, but as one’s sole aim and purpose of life—takes one to

the Supreme Awareness.


Sri Swami Brahmananda


Tags: Yoga, Renunciation, Consciousness, Pranayama





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