I am slowly trying to write up the last few conferences I attended, which is proving pretty difficult with a job and a yoga practice. But I am also really enjoying reminding myself of Sharath’s teachings. Hopefully I still have his intonation right, I think I’m forgetting it a bit:
There are many times I’ve told you, when doing asanas, yama and niyama are also very important to follow, to bring a meaning to our practice, if you want it to be complete. Asana is not enough. It is not the final part of spiritual practice. It is the beginning of spiritual practice.
Without yama and niyama… the Hatha Yoga Pradipika says – when doing asanas we have to do yama and niyama.
So if you are able to do all asanas beautifully, if you are able to do handstand (everybody wants to show that ‘I can do handstand’ – it’s all to attract people – but it doesn’t mean you are a big yogi).
Yoga means the transformation which should happen within us. The reason of doing asana is to purify our body and mind and then the change should happen within us – how we react to things, how we behave… all these things should change.
Rajoguna (the guna (quality) of rajas (motion, activity, passion, change, excitement)) will go high after practising asana here. You will go to the coconut stand outside and fight with everyone and start doing handstand there [we all laugh]. Whatever you do outside also matters. Outside if you act crazy with people then what is the use of doing this? It means you haven’t understood this.
Many people compare Ashtanga Yoga to aerobics class. But only if you jump into the sea can you see the beauty of the sea. I’ve not been [in the sea] because I’m very scared. But if you have dived inside this thing called yoga… I’ve experienced a few beautiful things in this.
Some people practise and practise but they haven’t understood the meaning of this. An example is if you keep chanting everyday but your mind is thinking some bad things, so what’s the use of doing chanting. When the mind and body are involved in chanting then positive energy will generate here. If the mind is negative then negative energy will come around you.
Why is chanting important? to create positive energy in us and around us. Like that, asana practice should also be done like that. When we bring everything together in our practice then positive energy will generate.
‘ahimsasatyasteyabrahmacharyaparigrahayamah’ (Yoga Sutras II:30) – the yamas are ahimsa, satya, asteya, brahmacharya and aparigraha.
‘shauchasantoshatapahsvadhyayeshvarapranidhananiniyamah’ (Yoga Sutras II:32) – the niyamas are shaucha, santosha, tapas, svadhyaya and ishvara pranidhana.
Ahimsa means non-violence. Last time one student asked me if we are hurting ourselves through practice. This is not hurting – we are getting rid of bad karmas (actions) through practice. We can hurt others by words or thoughts – if we are mentally thinking something bad, that negative energy… in India we always say you have to be very careful with negative energy. When we have a new house we put a pumpkin outside – it takes away the bad energy. [About the house] sometimes some people have good intentions, some people have bad intentions. Most of the time it’s bad intentions.
When you go to a big function, there you see all different kinds of people. First we have to generate ourself positive energy. Once we follow all these things – yama and niyama: satya, truthfulness; asteya, non-stealing; brahmacharya, celibacy… yogis in the past used to follow all these things to give them positive energy. Satya and ahimsa – if you follow them then nothing will bother you.
Karma is also very important – the action what we take. If you do something bad in life then you have to pay for it. Bad things will happen to you also. If you think like that – if you hurt others then really you are hurting yourself – then positive energy will come to you.
This is the change that should happen within you. Until then you are not doing yoga. Yoga is not only on your mat, it should happen wherever you go. If you go to a certain level then yoga happens within you.
Asteya – now many things are stolen, including the postures. Now there are so many different kinds of yogas, originally there were only a few of them.
Brahmacharya – celibacy – this is also very important – to be true to your partner. This is very important in spiritual practice. This will create a certain kind of energy within us.
Aparigraha – greedy – wanting more, more, more. Now people are so greedy. They will do anything to get popularity. Everybody wants to be in the limelight. If you get a yoga magazine it’s all I, I, I. A real yogi will never say ‘I did that, I did this’. This yoga practice is a very private thing. It is not to show others that I am a big yogi.
Like last time I told you, while practising the eight limbs of yoga, the impurities in the body and mind – we can get rid of by practising the eight limbs of yoga, and spiritual knowledge will glow within us. When it glows we become very wise in spiritual practice.
I was on America tour. One senior student said, he’s been practising for many years, more than 25 years, ‘whenever students came to your workshop, they came and visited me.’ [I don't really understand my notes here but I remember that the gist of the story was that this senior student was boasting that he was more important and more popular than Sharath.] Instead of getting anger I felt so sad. More than 25 years he’s been practising – he never understood yoga.
Nobody is great, only God is great. Many things we don’t know. Only when you say I don’t know anything then you start to know many things. If we say we know a posture… but then we realise many new things in our practice, even if just doing primary or half-primary. Once we think like this in our practice then many things will start happening.
Shaucha – cleanliness – there are two types:
i) Antar – internal, that the mind is clean, purity of mind. Without that the shaucha doesn’t happen. Our thoughts and actions should be clean. And to keep our internal body and nervous system clean.
ii) Bahir – external, environment – mat, clothes, house. We have to take a bath or shower before practice. Some people come like that – so smelly. Before your practice you have to be pure – inside and outside. When you take hot shower you get rid of the dust and bad energy and the body relaxes.
Santosha – contentment – it is very important – to be happy. Not just like this [Sharath gives a fake smile]. Some people have everything, still they are not happy. One wise man told me – animals – they have only one agenda – food. Humans – they are the other way – once you eat food, hundreds of problems start for you, because you are not happy. If you go to Africa or some parts of India you’ll see how some people live there. If you compare your life to them you are living a very luxurious life. Still you are not happy.Those people are happy because they are not greedy. So this is very important – santosha.
Tapas – austerity – to follow a strict life. Strict means to follow a certain discipline in our daily life. Doing practice, having food at a certain time, not all the time. Asana needs all these things. You have to leave many things if you want to do a sadhana (a spiritual practice) . You have to be very careful with what you do, where you go, who you meet… If you meet bad people, bad energy goes inside you and you start acting like them.
In olden days yogis used to live in the Himalayas because they wanted to keep their energy pure. And still many people are there. It is easy to lose positive energy if the mind is not stable. Unfortunately I cannot go – I have two children and a wife. We can do it here also in our daily life.
Svadhyaya – self-study – this is misunderstood by many people. People think it means to learn yoga alone. But it means to discover yourself through guidance from guru. As your mother shows you how to eat food. I am teaching you asanas but you have to put effort to do it, to think how to do it. That discovery is svadhyaya.
You have to be on your mat, try to do it, try to discover spirituality in your practice. That is self-study. When we get to a certain level in practice we totally submerse ourself. We can use a devata, a god, like Krishna or Ganesha - ishta devata (one’s god of preference) – whichever you like, Jesus, Allah, whichever you think you are connected to.
Everybody has one god they are connected to. I like Krishna. I think Krishna is the biggest yogi ever born in the world.
Ishvara Pranidhana – surrender to the divine. Once we surrender ourself we become God ourself. If you are properly practising ishvara prandihana you can go directly to samadhi.
In the Ramayana there is Rama, and in the Mahabharata there is Krishna. Both are incarnations of Vishnu but they come in different yugas (ages, eras). We are now in Kali Yuga (the age of the goddess Kali, the age of vice). In this yuga many bad things happen. We are coming to the end of this yuga.
There was one demon called Ravana – he had stolen Rama’s wife. But originally Ravana was a very big yogi and a very big scholar also. When Rama kills Ravana he becomes ruler of the whole of India. Rama was served by Hanuman, the biggest devotee anyone can imagine. He had to show how he can be so devoted to his master: Rama and Anjaneya (another name for Hanuman) were fighting together. Rama uses all his weapons but Anjaneya doesn’t use anything, he just chants ‘Rama’, and nothing affects him, and then he becomes Rama. That is the power of ishvara pranidhana.
Once we think about some god, you yourself become God. That is what Shankar said – I am Brahman. But you have to go to that level – we have so many delusions within that make us blind. So we have to do our practice. We can change many things by doing this – not only ourself but the whole of society and the environment. Yoga is a very powerful tool – we need to know how to use it then many things can happen. Like with an Apple computer, if you know how to use it then you can do miracles; if you don’t know how to use it then you can blow up the computer. Yoga is also like that. You need to know how to use it through guidance from guru. Without guru’s blessing it is impossible for transformation to happen. Knowledge should glow within you – bright like a sun. Once these things happen, many things will become nonsense for you. When you become wiser your spiritual knowledge becomes stronger within you. You should focus on that, not just on authorisation, on getting a certificate. Once this glows within you, that is the real certificate. We will all keep trying.
No questions – next week – you can think for one week.