Yoga | Inner Engineering


Yoga


Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras, one of the most profound documents on the yogic sciences, begins with a strange line: “…And now, yoga.” 

A great document on life starts with just half a sentence! Why? 

This is because you arrive at yoga only when you realize that your desire is essentially for the limitless, and that absolutely nothing else will settle you. Every human being lives in a perpetual state of insufficiency. No matter who you are or what you have achieved, you still want a little more than what you have right now. This is human desire. But the fundamental desire within every human being is for boundless expansion. 

Most people are not aware of the nature of their longing. When their longing finds unconscious expression, we call this greed, conquest, ambition. When their longing finds conscious expression, we call this yoga. 

If you still believe that everything will be okay the moment you find a new girlfriend or boyfriend, get a raise, buy a new house or car, then it is not yet time for yoga. Once you’ve tried all those things and more, and clearly know that none of it will ever be enough—then you are ready. 

So now, yoga. 

What exactly is yoga? 

If you were to close your eyes and conjure an image, it would probably be one of bodies twisted into impossible postures. Bone-bending, muscle-knotting, teeth-gnashing contortionism—that, for many, is yoga! 

The trend is changing nowadays to some extent, and many yoga studios also impart breathing techniques and meditation processes. So, for some people, the image of yoga might be one of serenely smiling faces and perfect bodies seated effortlessly in lotus position. 

But none of that is what we mean when we talk of the science of yoga. 

Yoga is not a practice. It is not an exercise. It is not a technique. The images in popular consciousness point to a bowdlerized form of yoga that has now pervaded the world. This is a travesty of a science of extraordinary grandeur and profundity that originated on the Indian subcontinent. 

The science of yoga is, quite simply, the science of being in perfect alignment, in absolute harmony, in complete sync with existence. 

The many fluctuations of the outside world have their impact on each one of us. But yoga is the science of creating inner situations exactly the way you want them. When you fine-tune yourself to such a point where everything functions beautifully within you, naturally the best of your abilities will flow out of you. 

You have surely noticed that when you are happy, you always function better. You seem to have an endless supply of energy. You can go on and on, even without eating or sleeping. Just a little happiness liberates you from your normal limitations of energy and capability. 

When your body and mind are in a relaxed state, you are also free of several nagging ailments. Let’s say you go and sit in your office with a headache. A headache is not a major disease. But just that throbbing can take away a whole lot of your capability at work and your enthusiasm for the job—and perhaps for life itself. A simple headache can turn what is most precious to you into a source of vexation or even misery. (This also works conversely. When your loved ones are irritated with you, they invariably feign a headache!) But with the practice of yoga, your body and mind can be maintained at the highest possible level of capability and efficiency. 

And yet, yoga is not just a self-help tool for greater mental and physical efficiency—and freedom from headaches. It is all that and much more. 

Modern science tells us that all of existence is just energy manifesting itself in different ways and in different forms. This means that the same energy that can sit here as a rock can lie there as mud, can stand up as a tree, can run like a dog —or be here reading this book, as you. So, you are essentially a morsel of energy that is part of the much larger energy system of the universe. The cosmos is just one big organism. Your life is not independent of it. You cannot live without the world because there is a very deep moment-to-moment transaction between the two of you. 

Although everything in the universe is the same energy, it functions at different levels of capability in different forms. The same energy functions in one plant to create roses; in another plant it functions to create jasmine. With the same material with which people made earthen pots we now make computers, cars, and even spacecrafts! 

It is the same material; we have just started using it for higher and higher possibilities. Essentially, natural evolution is a similar phenomenon: from the same material of this planet, what an incredible journey has been made, from an amoeba to a human being! It is the same with our inner energies. Yoga is the technology of upgrading, activating, and refining these inner energies for the highest possibilities. Suddenly, your capabilities reach a level of brilliance that you never imagined possible. An accidental and limited life turns near-miraculous. 

But yoga performs an even deeper function than ensuring well-being at body, mind, and energy levels. Literally, yoga means “union.” When you are in yoga, it means that in your experience, everything has become one. This is the essence of the science. This is also its deepest aim. 

What is this union? What unites with what? 

Right now, you are aware of someone called “me” and someone called the “other.” This “me” and “other” can be extended to groups of people, communities, and nations, but fundamentally “me” and “other” is the basis of conflict in the universe. The whole point of yoga is to bring you to an experience wherein, if you sit here, there is no such thing as “you” and “me.” It is all me— or all you! Any process that helps you to reach this union is yoga. 

How can this union be achieved? 

There are several ways. But let us start at the beginning—with our ideas of what constitutes an individual. If I were to start telling you things you did not know, you would have a choice: to believe or disbelieve me. Either way, you have only concretized your assumptions, whether positive or negative. This will only take you into flights of fanciful imagination. But the whole process of yoga is to take you, step by step, and stage by stage, from the known into the unknown. It is a hundred percent empirical science. It does not ask you to take anything on trust. It urges you to experiment every step of the way. 

So, first let us look at what exactly you understand by the word “myself.” Right now, in your understanding, this “you” is constituted by your body, your mind (which includes your thoughts and emotions), and your energies. Your energies may not be in your experience currently, but you know them by inference: if your body and mind function as they do, there must be some kind of energy empowering them. These three realities—body, mind, energy—are what you know. They are also what you can work with. 

Yoga tells us that we are actually composed of five “sheaths,” or layers or, more simply, bodies. As there is a medical physiology, there is a yogic one as well. It leads us from the gross to the subtlest levels of reality. Do you have to believe in it? No. But it is a useful place at which to start our exploration. Your fundamental area of work, however, is only with the realities that you are aware of. 

The first sheath or layer to which yoga draws our attention is the physical body—the annamayakosha, or more literally, the food body. What you call the “body” right now is just an accumulated heap of food. It is the product of all the nourishment you have ingested over the years. That is how it gets its name. 

The second layer is the manomayakosha, or the mental body. Today, doctors are talking a great deal about psychosomatic ailments. This means that what happens in the mind affects what happens in the body. This is because what you call “mind” is not just the brain. It is not located in any single part of the human anatomy. Instead, every cell has its own intelligence, so there is an entire mental body, an entire anatomy of the mind. 

Whatever happens in the mental body happens in the physical body, and, in turn, whatever happens in the physical body happens in the mental body. Every fluctuation on the level of the mind has a chemical reaction, and every chemical reaction, in turn, generates a fluctuation on the level of the mind. 

The physical and mental bodies are like your hardware and software. Hardware and software cannot do anything unless you plug into quality power. So, the third layer of the self is the pranamayakosha, or the energy body. If you keep your energy body in perfect balance, there will be no disease in your physical or mental bodies. Today there is scientific evidence to show that the impact of genetic memory on the human being is not absolute. Except the fundamental aspects of the DNA, everything can be changed, including the genetic trends of susceptibility to ailments. Infectious diseases happen because of external organisms, but chronic diseases are manufactured daily by human beings. When your energy body is in full vibrancy and proper balance, chronic diseases cannot exist in the body. I could introduce you to thousands of people who have gotten rid of their physical and psychological ailments just by doing certain simple yogic practices. These practices are not aimed at the disease. They are just aimed at bringing a certain harmony and vitality to the energy body. 

These are the three dimensions of the self you are aware of right now: the physical, the mental, the energetic. They are essentially physical in nature, though each is more subtle than the preceding one. It is like a lightbulb, electricity, and light—all these are physical. One you can hold in your hand; the other you can feel; and the third takes a sensitive receptor, like the eye, to experience. But they are essentially physical, which is why you can experience them through your sense organs. 

However, there is a fourth layer called the vignanamayakosha, or the etheric body. Gnana means “knowledge.” Vishesh gnana means “extraordinary knowledge”—that which is beyond the sense perceptions. This is a transient state. It is neither physical nor non-physical. It is like a link between the two. It is not in your current level of experience, because your experience is limited to the five sense organs which cannot perceive the non-physical. Those who report near-death experiences are those who could have slipped accidentally into this state. Such an experience occurs when, for some reason, people’s physical, mental, and energy bodies have become feeble. If you learn to find conscious access to this dimension, there will be a quantum leap in your ability to know the cosmic phenomenon. 

There is also a fifth sheath, the anandamayakosha, which is beyond the physical entirely. Ananda means “bliss.” It has nothing to do with the physical realms of life. A dimension that is beyond the physical cannot be described or even defined, so yoga talks about it only in terms of experience. When we are in touch with that aspect beyond the physical, we become blissful. It is not that a bubble of bliss lies within your physical structure. It is just that when you access this indefinable dimension, it produces an overwhelming experience of bliss. 

But bliss is not a goal in itself. Once you touch this dimension of nonexistence, blissfulness is guaranteed. In this state, you are no more an issue in your own life. When you are no more an issue, you can fearlessly explore the beyond. 

When you touch this dimension beyond definition, the impact of time and space is obliterated. This accounts for the many stories of yogis sitting unmoving for incredibly long periods of time. This is possible not because of physical endurance, but because in these states, they are not available to the process of time. They have touched a dimension beyond all the contradictions of here and there, now and then; a limitless ocean of emptiness where there is neither bondage nor freedom—an existence beyond existence. 

Yoga does not ask you to work with anything other than what you know. It simply tells you that if the physical, mental, and energy bodies are perfectly aligned, you will find access to the bliss body. But your work, as we said before, is only with the first three bodies. 

When it comes to external realities, each human being is differently capable. What one does, the other may not be able to do. But when it comes to inner realities, all of us are equally capable. There is no guarantee that you will be able to sing, dance, climb a mountain, or make money, merely because you want to. But making your inner life blissful is something that everyone is capable of. It cannot be denied to you, if you are willing. Once you master certain basic yogic technologies of inner well-being, your journey through life becomes absolutely effortless. You are able to express yourself at your fullest potential without any stress or strain. You can play with life whichever way you want, but life cannot leave a single scratch upon you. 

So, to experience well-being all you need is a certain mastery over these three dimensions of body, mind, and energy. Being successful in the world depends on your ability to harness these dimensions, according to the needs of your life situations and the activity you want to perform. But yoga is also the science of aligning these three dimensions so that you reach the ultimate state of ecstatic union with life itself. 

How does one reach this ultimate union? 

Yoga tells us there are a few fundamental ways. If you employ your physical body to reach this ultimate union, we call this karma yoga, or the yoga of action. If you employ your intelligence to reach your ultimate nature, we call this gnana yoga, the yoga of intelligence. If you employ your emotions to reach your ultimate nature, we call this bhakti yoga, the yoga of devotion. And if you use your energies to reach the supreme experience, we call this kriya yoga, the yoga of transforming energies. 

Every human being is a unique combination of the same ingredients. All these aspects—karma, gnana, bhakti, kriya—have to function in an integrated way, if one wants to get anywhere. If these four dimensions—body, mind, emotion, energy—don’t walk together, you will be one big mess. 

Once it happened…Four men were walking in the forest. The first was a gnana yogi, the second was a bhakti yogi, the third was a karma yogi, and the fourth was a kriya yogi. 

Usually, these four people can never be together. The gnana yogi has total disdain for every other type of yoga. His is the yoga of the intellect, and typically, an intellectual has complete disdain for everybody else, particularly these devotional types who look upward and chant God’s name all the time. They look like a bunch of idiots to him. 

But a bhakti yogi, a devotee, thinks all this gnana, karma, and kriya yoga is a waste of time. He pities the others who don’t see that all you need to do is know that God exists, hold his hand, and walk in trust. All this mind-splitting philosophy, this bone-bending yoga is absurd to him. 

Then there is the karma yogi, the man of action. He thinks all the other types are just plain lazy. Their lives are pure self-indulgence. 

But the kriya yogi is the most disdainful of all. He laughs at everyone. Don’t they know that existence is just energy? If you don’t transform your energy, whether you long for God or for anything else, nothing is going to happen! There can be no transformation. 

These four people customarily cannot get along. But today they happened to be walking together in the forest. Suddenly, a storm broke out. It grew fierce. The rain started pouring down relentlessly. Drenched to the skin, the four yogis started running, looking desperately for shelter. 

The bhakti yogi, the devotion man, said, “There’s an ancient temple in this direction. Let’s go there.” (As a devotee, he was particularly familiar with the geography of temples.) 

They ran in that direction. They came to an ancient temple; all the walls had crumbled long ago; just the roof and four columns remained. They rushed into the temple—not out of any love for God, but just to escape the rain. 

There was a deity in the center. They ran toward it. The rain started lashing from every direction. There was no other place to go, so they moved closer and closer. Finally, there was no alternative. They just sat down and embraced the idol. 

The moment these four people hugged the idol, suddenly God appeared. 

In all their minds the same question arose: why now? They wondered, “We expounded so many subtle and arcane philosophies, worshipped at every possible sacred shrine, great and small, selflessly served so many people, did so much body-breaking penance, but you never showed up. Now when we’re just escaping the rain, you turn up. Why?” 

God said, “At last you four idiots got together.” 

Yoga is, quite simply, the science of bringing the four idiots together. 

Right now, for most people, these four dimensions are aligned in different directions. Your mind is thinking one way; your emotions pull you another way; your physical body another way; your energy another way. This makes you a potential calamity, an accident waiting to happen. You are being hijacked—you are being pulled apart, in four different ways. 

It is now time to plunge into the adventure of self-alignment, into the remarkable empirical system that is yoga—one that enables you to be both alchemist and experiment, subject and object at the same time. 

And so, the next section of this book turns pragmatic. Having mapped the terrain, we now embark on a real journey, a conscious journey of self-discovery and self-reclamation. We will explore the nature and possibilities of the first three yogic layers, or sheaths—namely, body, mind (which includes thought and emotion), and energy. It will also introduce you to strategies by which you can turn each of these layers into a tool for transformation, an instrument of knowing. 

The problem is that religious nuts around the world have exported everything that is beautiful about a human being to the other world. If you talk of love, they speak of divine love. If you talk of bliss, they speak of divine bliss. If you talk of peace, they speak of divine peace. We have forgotten that these are all human qualities. A human being is fully capable of joy, of love, of peace. Why do you want to export these to heaven? 

There is so much talk of God and heaven mainly because human beings have not realized the immensity of being human. It is obvious that the very source of life is throbbing within you in some way. The source of your life is also the source of every other life and the source of all creation. This dimension of intelligence or consciousness exists in every one of us. The deliverance of every human being lies in finding access to this deathless dimension. 

To be joyful and peaceful within yourself every moment of your life, to be able to perceive life beyond its physical limitations—these are not superhuman qualities. These are human possibilities. 

Yoga is not about being superhuman; it is about realizing that being human is super.





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