This excellent paper reminds modest western yogi like me the Indian Vedic phylosophical roots of classical yoga. As a secular person, as an engineer, as non Indian, I am not confortable with the divine aspect nor with the "scientific" nature of the Vedic traditions, but as a yoga practitioner i do recognize the depth and potential of yoga practices for the betterment of individuals and hopefully for contemporary society. I may also volunteer to enjoy a workshop in Bhandari's village retreat.
Patanjali Ashtaanga Yog – It’s Practice and Power
Published on January 25, 2017
C. M. BHANDARI (FORMER AMBASSADOR OF INDIA)
Appointed Goodwill Yoga Ambassdaor for 2016 by ICCR
Yog now attracts attention of most people worldwide. All age groups are interested about it to get fast relief from sufferings/stress/anxiety/depression/indecisiveness, etc. But for most of them, including majority of Yog trainers, it is primarily a fitness routine, a physical training, at best a Hathayog routine, but that also is not practiced the way it should be, scientifically, and that is why they do not get the kick out of it that they should get instantly. There cannot be a better conviction about the efficacy of Yog science than getting a firsthand experience of it’s potency in the first class itself from an attained Guru.
The literal meaning of Yog is union, to unite; unite the three levels of our existence – physical, subtle and causal. We are mostly aware of our physical existence, which runs on auto mode but we are unaware of the subtle and causal levels within the body that operate and can influence the physical body’s performance. Once the individual becomes aware of the complete coordination of the three bodies within himself/ herself; is able to recognize the five sheaths within the body – Annamaya, Pranamaya, Manomaya, Vigyanmaya and Anandamaya Koshas – to unite with the reality within, the Soul, he/she becomes established in Yog. He/she is then not only in harmony and peace with oneself but also with everything else around him/her – individuals, family, society, indeed the whole kingdom of living and nonliving objects. Such an individual gets empowered to perform passionately to excellence in the chosen field of activity while always remaining at peace and happiness within.
If the practitioner acquires firsthand experience of his/her holistic existence and inculcates such personality traits from Yogic practices, you can be sure that he/she is progressing on the Yog path and has gained the ability of discriminating between good and bad, positive and negative energies and can progress towards advance stages of discriminating between the interplay of Ego and the Soul. That is the true purpose of understanding and practicing the Yog science, to be able to transform the Ego to be exactly the same as the pure Soul (embodiment of God). Naturopathy and Ayurved sciences precede Yog and specifically help us manage normal physical body health.
Yog is not merely about Yogic postures and breathing techniques but it’s highest contribution is in disciplining our thought process, our daily routines – in other words our lifestyles. Management of thought process is key to de-stressing. Stress from present-day illusory lifestyles is the major contributing factor to discontentment and worries, which if not controlled, start cascading to greed, infatuation, worries, unhappiness, anger, fear, jealousy, and finally depression/nervous breakdowns. We now live in an illusory world that is distancing us from reality. We are seeking physical comforts to satisfy our senses and call it happiness but it is short-lived, lasts only as long as the comforts last. No body talks of the long-term harm it causes to the body because in so doing, we disable the body’s autonomic functions with disastrous results.
I came across (August 2013) mention of a list of 100 different styles of Yog practices in a Yog magazine published from Londan, England, which shows the trivialization and commercialization of this Vedic science, primarily catering to clients’ pockets rather than to their needs! I am sure this number of styles has since gone higher. But you need not get confused with the different styles and their relative merits. You can choose any one or more styles you like / that suit your body but always remember that the real Yog practice is all about managing your thought process to a logical and serene state. For example, we all need “Roti, Kapada aur Makan” but this is only for the body. A shelter that we call home is for our body to live in. But do we realize that the real home for our Aatman (Soul) is the body itself? All animals do not build palatial homes; they live in tune with Nature. Even Atman remains totally detached from body just as an automobile driver is quite apart from the automobile. That is how in Samadhi state, the Aatman can set itself totally free from the confines of the body. We can thus conclude that the brick & mortar home is just for body comfort as recognized by our senses and a temporary mental satisfaction. It has nothing to do with the Aatman and it’s perennial happiness.
Readers have to continuously upgrade their knowledge of the Yog science to be able to make sustained progress on Yogic achievements. It should show up on you by way of a healthy body, cheerful mental state in all actions and a calm, balanced and intelligent approach to each and every task assigned to you or response expected of you to each and every situation – good or bad. You should have capacity to discriminate between reality (Truth) and illusion (MAYA). A clear realization that all my possessions, including my body, are mine temporarily and will be left behind after death, should help us start detaching from our material possessions and work towards serving humanity. Such an approach along with Asanas, Pranayam, meditation, etc., will progress us faster on the Yogic path.
I conduct workshops in my village retreat (Devamber Arogya Dham Ashram, Village Mawra, Ranikhet, Uttarakhand) to provide a clear, logical, self-evident understanding of te depth of Yogic sciences in demystifying the nature of our living in this world – the range of forces at play that determine our individual body and mental health and spiritual happiness. The presentation is entirely scientific – far from any religious practice, traditions or philosophy. A week-end workshop commencing on Friday evening, whole day Saturday and concluding by Sunday lunch provides a good first-hand exposure to participants in understanding the Yog science and a week-long retreat from Sunday afternoon to following Saturday forenoon provides the depth and full potential to be realized from Yogic practices. They would not need any more cajoling/coercing to live a Yogic way of life in enjoying both the material and spiritual worlds. Such is the over-powering ability of this science!