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Hatha Yoga and Intention of Self-Realization

Hatha Yoga, Integral Yoga Teachings   |   September 26, 2013  |   by  Sri Swami Satchidananda

“…the cumulative effect of the intention to still the mind has transformed ordinary humans into extraordinary ones.”

Steadiness of mind can never happen accidentally. Left to itself, the mind will wander aimlessly forever. The power to reign in a wandering mind is the result of an enormous potential that sets us apart as humans. It allows those dedicated to the cause of Self-realization to harness the dissipating and ceaseless energy of restlessness. Although achieved through moment-by-moment efforts, seemingly insignificant as isolated acts, the cumulative effect of the intention to still the mind has transformed ordinary humans into extraordinary ones. All the saints, sages and masters of all traditions have been transformed by their intention to focus or steady the mind.

In Book 1 of the Yoga Yoga Sutras, Patanjali states “The restraints of the modification of the mind stuff is Yoga” (I:2). On a related note, a few sutras later he defines practice as “Effort toward steadiness of mind” (I:13). You may wonder why steadying the mind is given such importance. The simple answer is “then the Seer (Self) abides in his own nature” (I: 3). Patanjali makes it clear, and those who dedicate themselves to practice discover, that through the tangible effort of focusing the mind something remarkable and outside the reach of control occurs: the Self reveals itself. By combining effort or intention and an act of free will, the mind can be controlled. However, this brings the seeker only to the point of receptivity to Self-revelation. This is a crucial distinction because it sets the Self as distinct from ego, requiring a delicate balance between free-willed intention and self-surrender.

In this article, I am speaking of intention in the most fundamental of ways: as being aligned with the overriding purpose of one’s life or even one’s deepest desires. Underlying all desires is the desire to be happy. In spiritual terms the desire for happiness is no more and no less than the desire to realize the Self, which by definition is eternal existence, awareness and bliss (Satchidananda). Why do you practice Hatha Yoga? What is your intention or deepest desire? Is your deepest desire for Self-realization aligned with your practice of Hatha Yoga? If not, I would say your practice of Hatha Yoga will have only a limited effect, and in the long run will most likely fizzle out.

A person is what his deep desire is. It is our deepest desire in this life that shapes the life to come. So let us direct our deepest desires to realize the Self. (Chandogya Upanishad, I:14)

When one is deeply intent, distractions disappear entirely. One’s whole being wakes up; one moves into a higher orbit. Personal problems seem to resolve themselves. Suddenly life has a purpose. The mind becomes steady and still, and the Self is revealed.

However, one could argue that whatever one is pursuing, if intention is strong enough, the effect will be the same. Through the same steady and still mind, the same Self will be revealed. But there is a difference between the Self-seeker and one who is intent on achieving only a mundane goal. The Self-seeker stops to ponder and absorb the revelation that is the Self, and by doing so, is absorbed more deeply in it’s nature and grows in faith.

Side by side, those who know the Self and those who know it not do the same thing; but it is not the same: the act done with knowledge, with inner awareness and faith, grows in power. (Chandogya Upanishad, I:10)

For those seeking less than the Self, though deep intention focuses life’s energies, the Eternal force of existence and happiness may manifest but It is not recognized for what It is. Their treasures lie elsewhere. They feel happiness but they don’t recognize its source. They see their happiness as their own achievement, not as bestowed upon them as a gift. Everywhere, internally and externally, they make claims of me and mine. It isn’t until they are aware that“Wealth is not loved for its own sake, but because the Self lives in it” (Brihadaranyaka Upanishad, II: 4.5) that they spiritually ripen.

Seek nothing less than the Self. Through deep intention toward seeking the Self in Hatha Yoga practice and through all the opportunities provided during each day, we can and will receive the ultimate gift: eternal existence, awareness and bliss (Satchidananda).

(by Louis Mahadev Carlino, from the IYTA Newsletter, February 2006)

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