“Now the exposition of Yoga is being made”
As human beings we have many intentions: to eat well, to find a good job, to take care of our family, and to keep our homes tidy. As students of Yoga, we add other intentions: to meditate and do Hatha Yoga everyday, to be loving and kind, and to serve others selflessly. Daily, we surround ourselves with our intentions, hoping to improve our lives and become at least a little happier.
In the universe of Yoga, practitioners’ intentions can be grouped under one, all-encompassing umbrella: to experience the unbounded, unchanging peace and joy that is our own True Self. We know from Sri Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras that this experience comes when we attain perfect clarity and stillness of mind (Yogas citta vrtti nirodhah: the restraint of the modifications of the mindstuff is Yoga, 1.2). How are we to realize the goal of this intention?
The Yoga Sutras present practice—the effort to steady the incessant fluctuations of the mind—and nonattachment— transcending self-centered motivations—as the means to this peace (sutra 1.12). That’s fine and logical, but how many students of Yoga stick to their intentions until their goal is reached? We have all seen many students, eager and intent in the beginning, drift away from the very path that promises the Peace they long for. What makes some yogis stick to the path while others fade away? What fuels their spiritual life?
Practice becomes firmly grounded when attended to for a long time, without break, and with enthusiasm.
The first two factors are familiar to anyone who has tried to achieve anything of worth. Success follows dedication to a goal. It’s the last factor that’s more elusive. Enthusiasm is the mysterious secret ingredient to realizing our intentions. Without enthusiasm— interest, inspiration, anticipation—we couldn’t practice for a long time or without break.
The difficulty with enthusiasm is that it seems to be fickle, losing force at times or even disappearing altogether. We know that if we can achieve the “long time” and the “without break” we will have gained the momentum that comes from experiencing at least some of the benefits of sadhana. But where do we find the inspiration to go on when we face dry spells, when obstacles of every stripe seem to haunt our intentions?
Sri Gurudev often emphasized the important role that sangha (the community of seekers) plays. When we are shaky, there will be someone nearby who will support and encourage us. In addition, we will find inspiration among our sisters and brothers who have been traveling the path longer than we and who are attaining what we seek.
Our community doesn’t have to be limited to our fellow seekers. We can gain guidance and support in many ways. It can come from scriptures, the wise words of sages, saints and yogis. We can find inspiration through the mantra we repeat, and the wisdom and beauty we find in Nature—God’s fingerprints are all over It. While we strive to keep inspired, we should also be wary of an enemy of enthusiasm that masks our zeal: obsessiveness. Sri Gurudev’s words in this regard shine with wisdom and humor, “Take it easy, but not lazy.” Success in Yoga, in attaining our goals, is generally not achieved by occasional heroic, stress-filled efforts, but by small, sane, and simple steps taken everyday.
There is one more secret to explore. There is one intention that is the basis for all others—that can be the guiding light for all we strive for as yogis. Look at sutra 1.23:
Or that samadhi is gained by devotion with total dedication to God (Isvara).
This teaching is so vital that it is the only one that Sri Patanjali mentions four times. In Sanskrit, “devotion with total dedication,” pranidhanat, implies the aligning of personal intentions to that of God. What can inspire greater enthusiasm than knowing that we are participating in the Cosmic Plan? What better way to overcome the ignorance that is obstructing our experience of the True Self? Pranidhana can be cultivated by dedicating the fruits of our actions to God and by the practice of acceptance.By engaging in regular sadhana with effort, but never strain; by serving others selflessly; by aligning our will with the Divine Will; and by taking advantage of the inspiration and support of sangha, we can attain and maintain the enthusiasm to bring all our yogic intentions to fruition.
Sri Guruji Reverend Jaganath is the founder and spiritual head of Yoga Life Society. He is a direct disciple of world renowned Yoga master and leader in the ecumenical movement, Sri Swami Satchidananda, the founder and spiritual guide for the Integral Yoga Institutes and Satchidananda Ashrams worldwide.Guruji has taught at universities, prisons, Yoga centers, and interfaith programs both here and abroad. He was a principle instructor of both Hatha and Raja Yoga for the Integral Yoga Teacher Training Certification Programs for over twenty years and co-wrote the training manual used for that course. He established the Integral Yoga Ministry and developed the highly regarded Integral Yoga Meditation and Raja Yoga Teacher Training Certification programs. He served for eight years as chief administrator of Satchidananda Ashram -Yogaville and founded the Integral Yoga Institute of New Brunswick, NJ. He is also a spiritual advisor and visiting lecturer on Hinduism for the One Spirit Seminary in New York City.
IYTA members can purchase Rev. Jaganath’s Inside the Yoga Sutras at Integral Yoga Distribution for a 43% discount.
(from the February, 2006 IYTA Newsletter)