What Does Yoga Target And How It Can Be Achieved In The Present Age
Yoga as a Human Endeavour
Lord Krishna directs in the Bhagavad-Gita
tapasvibhyo ‘dhiko yogī
jñānibhyo ‘pi mato ‘dhikaḥ
karmibhyaś cādhiko yogī
tasmād yogī bhavārjuna
“A yogī is greater than the ascetic, greater than the empiricist and greater than the fruitive worker. Therefore, O Arjuna, in all circumstances, be a yogī.”
Excerpt From: A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada. “Bhagavad-gita As It Is – Macmillan 1972 Edition” 6.46
Every person has a choice of diverse endeavours in human life. People generally endeavour to satisfy their necessities and achieve significance in life while struggling with the constant stream of problems that life presents. The developed human consciousness, however, probes at first the causes of life’s difficulties, then seeks to know the nature of reality and finally is driven by the inquisitiveness to understand the source of everything.
Lord Krishna teaches in the Bhagavad-Gita
kaścid yatati siddhaye
yatatām api siddhānāṁ
kaścin māṁ vetti tattvataḥ
“Out of many thousands among men, one may endeavor for perfection, and of those who have achieved perfection, hardly one knows Me in truth.”
Excerpt From: A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada. “Bhagavad-gita As It Is – Macmillan 1972 Edition” 7.3
Life of the Thoughtful Person
The endeavour of perfection begins with some fundamental questions. “Who decided the structure of existence? That there should be societies composed of families with men, women and children?” “Where did emotions originate?” “Why is life so unpredictable?” “Why is there death?” “Why the struggle for survival when no one in history has ever survived?” “When all we want is happiness, the world offers only endless distress? Who imposes unhappiness and why?” “Who am I and why am I alive?”
To the contemplative person, life has no meaning without the answer to these fundamental questions. The human body cannot tolerate meaninglessness. The inquisitive mind has driven human society to orchestrate massive structures of learning, libraries of books on a myriad subjects and petabytes of information that can be ‘Googled’ at any time. In fact human civilisation is distinguished not by its wealth or power but by its learning and knowledge. The highest human beings are the learned savants, who perceive the present in a vast context of time and space with keen understanding. It is to them the world turns for direction for they who hold the key to the ultimate good.
Knowledge describing matter and its manipulation suffers from the limitations of the ephemeral. It cannot satisfy man for it is this very constriction that he strives to defeat. Medical research that seeks to combat disease has failed to prevent the occurrence of disease, old-age or death. Technology that can enable global communication and instant gratification although embraced worldwide has been unable to quell discontentment while at the same time has opened avenues for crime and exploitation. Instability and uncertainty thrive unabated despite the proliferation of untold bytes of mundane data. The nagging ignorance of solutions to the fundamental questions of life eats into the heart of mundane knowledge.
It is only when knowledge addresses the fundamental questions of life, does enlightenment come about. The spiritual science of yoga identifies the living entity, his nature and the nature of his environment. It reveals a reality transcendental to the experience of the imperfect senses and mind, truths that endure in all eventualities of a dynamically transforming world. To assimilate the science of yoga is to steadily see the unchanging within the flux of a radically shifting environment. The unchanging is also by nature conscious and blissful. Hence, yoga leads to the full blossoming of consciousness to the realm of eternal bliss.
In Bhagavad-Gita Chapter 6, texts 20-23, the state of yogic perfection, Samadhi is described.
“The stage of perfection is called trance, or samādhi, when one’s mind is completely restrained from material mental activities by practice of yoga. This is characterized by one’s ability to see the self by the pure mind and to relish and rejoice in the self. In that joyous state, one is situated in boundless transcendental happiness and enjoys himself through transcendental senses. Established thus, one never departs from the truth, and upon gaining this he thinks there is no greater gain. Being situated in such a position, one is never shaken, even in the midst of greatest difficulty. This indeed is actual freedom from all miseries arising from material contact.”
Excerpt From: A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada. “Bhagavad-gita As It Is – Macmillan 1972 Edition” 6.20-23
Yoga gradually brings one to equilibrium and spiritual harmony. Deep inner transformations brought about by diligent yogic practice result in an inner state of freedom unmoved by external circumstances. This is a perfection of life that yoga alone can deliver.
Modern Practice of Yoga
The practice of yoga recommended for the present times is Harinama Sankirtana propagated by Lord Chaitanya Mahaprabhu. Sankirtana is a simple but sublime process involving the congregational chanting of the Hare Krishna Mahamantra,
Hare Krishna Hare Krishna Krishna Krishna Hare HareHare Rama Hare Rama Rama Rama Hare Hare
The practice of asana commonly thought of as yoga is one of the limbs of an eight-limbed system called Ashtanga yoga. While its practice has immense benefits for human society, it is difficult and protracted. Most people in the age of kali lack the mental and physical strength as well as the duration of life to take this process to culmination. However, by simply chanting Hare Krishna Mahamantra, and following some regulations, the people of this age can effect the massive paradigm shifts in the core of the heart that take a person to yogic success in a short period of time. Comparing yogic development to climbing a 100-storey building, His Divine Grace A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada termed Sankirtana as the ‘Lift Process’ that quickly reaches the top. He likened the other yogic processes like jnana yoga, ashtanga yoga and karma yoga to the staircase process of reaching the top floor. The progress in these processes is, therefore, slow and arduous.
In the ultimate stage, a yogi becomes inwardly absorbed in unbroken meditation on the Supreme Lord present as parmatma or Supersoul in the heart. Such intense meditation can only result from love and devotion towards the Lord. One who chants the Hare Krishna Mahamantra can quickly attain this ultimate stage, the acme of yoga.
On the International Day of Yoga, it would be quite befitting for people to commit themselves to the process of Sankirtana by gathering in large groups and blissfully singing Hare Krishna Hare Krishna Krishna Krishna Hare Hare . Hare Rama Hare Rama Rama Rama Hare Hare for the rapid upliftment of a spiritually decrepit society.