The word yoga means to unite, to join together or to integrate. Here there are several spheres of reference integration of the physical with the emotional nature learning to co-ordinate emotional and mental aims to integrate mind and body- and to join the individual soul to the Universal Life Source, or God.
The system known as Yoga is an integral part of the classical systems of Indian Philosophy, all of which stem from the ancient and profound Vedic teachings that are considered to have their origin in antiquity. The Vedas refer to all aspects of human life and the natural sciences, including those involved in the spiritual evolution and advancement of mankind. Readers may already be aware of the value of the therapeutic aspects of the teachings known as Ayurveda, the philosophic Vedanta (the last of the Vedas) and the poetic and mystical Upanishads. It is believed that all our great western philosophers over the centuries have dipped into and adopted these Indian wisdom teachings with the result that many similar ideas permeate their doctrines. Both the philosophic and the practical guidelines of old are a valued source of information that continues to inspire earnest scholars as well as all those who question life today.
The different paths of Yoga, called Margas, offer approaches which appeal to different people. Hatha Yoga is now perhaps the best known and most popular. It offers a system which accents physical health and well-being and stresses the importance of the physical body. However, although not always acknowledged, Hatha Yoga, along with all the other teaching paths, remains focussed on the higher purpose: recognizing that it is only when we are in good health that we can live long enough to reach our full spiritual potential.
These paths are sometimes seen as specializations that indicate that we have a choice in the way we elect to seek spiritual knowledge. Some people choose to focus only upon one or the other, although it is generally acknowledged that in time the paths must all integrate.The spiritual search begins with the body. We must each apply the necessary personal disciplines in order to create physical and psychological health as the basis for experiencing the subtler regions of soul and spirit.
Regarding the deeper aspects of life, we all at some time query the purpose of human life beyond the mundane, with its seeming irregularities and injustices; we seek personal success in the art of daily living; we question what role our own soul has to play in the grand scheme of things; we seek to know how to integrate our spiritual ideals into practical daily life.
Over expanses of time the world has given us answers through many spiritual teachers, with most of them reinforcing the simple teaching that echoes that all life is One, that we are all children of God, that we must learn to love our brothers and sisters, and that we are personally responsible for our actions.
Although the rules of the spiritual life are simple enough, what is difficult is the application of them, and it is in this sense that Yoga offers us a method and a way.
Indian Vedic wisdom originated in remote antiquity and covers a wide range of knowledge including astronomy, mathematics, grammar, philosophy and physical health matters. Yoga is one of the six classical schools of philosophy. It was established as a system by the early Rishis and great saints with Patanjali and Shankara being amongst those best known and followed since before the time of Christ.
The science has since been developed further by the experiencies and discoveries of generations of successive teachers of Gurus and by exponents who continue to apply the simnple classical teachings fo the ancient wisdom relating to human health and human consciousness. The valuable science is an integral system offering benefits on all levels of being in those who aspire to human excellence through greater knowledge of the body, soul and spirit.
The aim of yogic philosophy is to assist us to experience spiritual realization of truths for ourselves. Its prescribed disciplines are designed as a preparation and commence with adherence to the fundamental ethics we all seek to live by.
There are several margas or pathways which have been designed to satisfy people with different approaches. For instance, an emotional person who seeks spiritual realization and Divine Love will be attracted to incorporate the Bhakti marga of devotion. A more intellectually inclined aspirant will no doubt be satisfied to develop the mind through Raja marga and seek ultimate Truth. Those seeking to reflect excellent health of the body will choose the path of Hatha marga. However it is acknowledged that all the principles are to eventually become integrated. The disciplines are incorporated appropriately as students blend their own spiritual disciplines in a unique recipe known as personal Sadhana.
Although concentration is an important exercise to strengthen the mental faculties and acquiring knowledge is encouraged in order to find the truths and purpose of life, it is equally important to release the inner knowledge and understanding that is believed to be preserved as inherent in our hearts. It is made known to us and released through personal intuition and in times of quiet meditation.
Meditation is common to all followers of wisdom teachings, not only amongst the students of Yoga but in all religions, philosophies and common to all spiritual aspirants. Its purpose extends beyond relief from mental stress or to establish emotional equilibrium to expansions and discoveries in heightened consciousness when we explore and find the spiritual realities for ourselves.
The simplicity and universality of yoga teachings attracts the attention of many people today who are searching for guidelines as to how to help themselves towards a healthier, happier, more meaningful and nobler way of living.
Our self culture begins with application of the natural laws which determine physical health.In time this must extend to the laws which affect psychological health that can bring us happiness, clarity of mental activity and peace of mind.
We first undertake the cultivation and moulding of our three separate spheres of personality. We work to improve our physical body, our emotions and mind. Then we must integrate them or yoke them together in a harmonious and co-operative relationship we call our individuality or ego. To establish this is important, as it is the only way we can ever live true to ourselves.
In the process of self culture, which usually is achieved over a considerable time, we not only learn much about our own nature, but of others also. It is a path of discovery. We begin to find our own true inner feelings, thoughts and values. We become conscious of the enduring nature of our soul or inner guiding intelligence which directs how we think, feel and act. We learn to listen through intuition and respect its wisdom that encourages us to act throughout our life in a manner that reflects the finest or noblest part of our nature.
Once the personality is reasonably integrated, we are more likely to know increased self confidence, new found direction in life, greater motivation towards our goal, and extended talents. All manner of surprises await us when we begin to centre ourselves in our enduring soul self instead of identifying ourselves, as previously, with the transient moods and thoughts and feelings of the personality.
Beyond self culture, it is natural to graduate towards seeking some way to contribute to the health and happiness of others. For this last purpose we require an added quality of spiritual energy and wisdom from a greater source than our own. We can draw upon this spiritual vitality through our breath that exists as our invisible lifeline connecting us to our life source.
Each of us proceeds in our self culture at our own pace. We are sometimes dismayed and depressed when we fail with some undertaking. We are energised in the presence of someone we respect who has a greater capacity than our own in a certain direction. We find great satisfaction in fulfilling our unique creative talents. We all need loving companionship. Yet we all have problems to overcome.
Due to our free will, each of us is different. Yet we share a common factor in that we all live our lives subject to the timeless laws of Nature including the impersonal and benign Law of Karma. All great world teachers remind us of the existence of this law of cause and effect or divine Justice that accords each person his due for his past efforts and actions.
There are no favourites, and we all must retain faith that we must continue to act throughout our lives in a manner that demonstrates our understanding of the spiritual principle of Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.
© Copyright Sally Janssen 2000