More than 36 years ago I wrote in one of my books that there are three brands of yoga:
- Hollywood yoga. This is yoga for beauty of face and body for only a youthful look. Spiritual purpose of having a body is completely ignored. Millions of people worldwide are now attracted to this brand of yoga.
- Harvard yoga. This is yoga of intellectual studies undertaken by scholars and scientists ( such as academic translations of Yoga yexts, and medical and scientific papers published about the effects of yoga)
- Himalayan yoga. This is our path. It is the yoga of serenity, self-purification, meditation and final self-realization. It is the yoga of the ancient tradition of the Vedas and Upanishads and of the great Masters.
A friend has written me asking the following question:
In the Patanjali sutras, he gives us the yama of ahimsa. In the Bhagavad Gita, Krishna tells Arjuna that he must fight and slaughter a lot of soldiers. While Krishna tells him that the atman cannot be harmed since it's eternal, immutable, etc., Arjuna still must harm a whole lot of people in battle. How do I reconcile these two things? If Patanjali is saying that we shouldn't harm anybody's atman, that doesn't really make sense since it cannot be harmed. So he must be talking about the body. If he's talking about the body this seems a direct contradiction to what Krishna is telling Arjuna. I've been struggling with this for awhile and can not make the two things come together.
Here is a brief reply...
It is said repeatedly in the Puranas (the great cosmological epics of India in Sanskrit) that when the earth can bear no more the burden of human sins, She, our mother, turns on her sides and we all come tumbling down all over.
It is also stated repeatedly that when the rulers are immoral and selfish, that corrupts the entire social order. AND, the order of Nature. This is a well known tenet in the teachings of India and of such philosophers as Confucius.
So, in the ancient stories of kings and kingdoms in India, whenever a natural disaster strikes, the king enters introspection :
Kim aham paapam akaravam
Kim aham saadhu naakaravam
What transgressions of the laws of morality have I committed?
Which right acts have I neglected to perform?
Then the king undertakes acts of self-purification :
pashchaat-taapa, confession to oneself, and
praayashcnitta, repentance and expiation
If our greed had not raised the ocean levels, and had not cut down the mangrove forests, would the tsunamis not be a little less disastrous?
Some calamities like earthquakes cannot be prevented -- except by massive and collective good karma of all people through thousand year spans. But some of their side effects can still be reduced.
What is the purpose of prayer at the times of such crises? Can our prayer mitigate the effects of the disasters? Can they lessen the pain of those suffering? Not so, not immediately. But it is also well known that prayer reduces the mental anguish.
How so? Each thought we think creates waves in the universal mind. Its waves can be directed/channeled towards the target minds. If we know how to pray.
Wordless prayer is the most effective; it is a state of intense feeling in the mind that is first stilled and purified, after freeing it of all sense-inputs and emotion-uprisings. The mind thus stilled through a particular type of heart centre meditation (to be learnt from an expert) is ready to send wave of an intense feeling of wellness, comfort and solace to the target mind(s).
Thus may we pray for those who are suffering.
SARS and bird flu!! Very important for the affluent air traveler to be saved from it. So all the high-tech precautions are taken.
Are we taking the same precautions to step the epidemic of cancer? Are we doing so by reducing the artificial chemicals wherewith we wash out fruits? How we contaminate our milk (right in the udder), how we force ourselves to breathe lead-laden air? How we nurture our angers constantly and intensify them to destroy us?
SARS and Bird Flu!! 2880, that is, two thousand eight hundred and eighty, 2880 (I repeat intentionally), children die of malaria in Africa alone EVERY 24 HOURS.
Is that not a natural disaster of calamitous proportions?
Do we say a prayer for these children and their loving parents and siblings, and forego the purchase or rental of one video to buy and send a mosquito net?
Don’t buy the mosquito net in USA or Europe and send it : for the price of one in these countries, maybe ten can be made where they are needed (providing some employment too).
And, more important,
for the 600 children who will be dying in the next one hour?
And for the 14400 who will die in the next 24 hours, wrapped perhaps in a newspaper to ward off cold, lying a cardboard box, with their knees pulled deep into the belly, curled up?
Any rations-laden military helicopters to rescue them?
Build more atomic reactors in quake-prone zones like California? And, also, more massive dams in the quake-prone zones like Uttarakhand Himalayas? Shall we?
Wisdom, Wisdom, where hast thou gone?
Our hearts go out to those thousands in Japan who have been hit by the triple crisis of earthquake, tsunami and radiation. Triple sorrow for them and for those of us who care.
Let us pray for them, wherever we are, singly and in groups.
Also do not forget to do something for those 2 children who died of malaria while you read this paragraph; and those 4 children who died of starvation also while you read the same paragraph. How many pictures of those on the TV, and in the newspapers?
When you pray for the suffering of Japan, do include these other neglected disasters.
Pray also that our rulers and others who hold and wield power(s), do an introspection:
Kim aham paapam akaravam
Kim aham saadhu naakaravam
What transgressions of the universal laws and consequent ethical principles have I committed?
Which right acts have I neglected to perform?
Remember that we also hold and wield some power(s); pray for your own self-purification to ward off world disasters of an immediate as well as far off future.
May your prayer be an action.
Swami Veda Bharati
Do you seek power? Do you wish to conquer your world? Is the whole world your adversary? Do you seek the power of wealth and control over others? Does the world seem full of unsympathetic, unjust people, always criticizing you, attacking you? Are your anxieties and worries of the past or of the future?
Once upon a time an ancient king had a hall of mirrors built in his palace to entertain his guests. One morning after a long night of celebration, after the banquet was over and all the guests had left, the king’s pet dog wandered into this hall of mirrors. He saw himself surrounded by a thousand other dogs, baring their fangs, snarling, barking. With each of his barks was the echo of a thousand others. The valiant dog defended himself all alone from those thousand opponents. In the morning the king’s dog was found lying on the floor, totally exhausted and near death.
What would have been the best way for the king’s dog to make those thousand other dogs cease barking at him? Only to sit back and stop baring his own fangs, stop barking, stop attacking. For with each attack he made, a thousand of his own reflections lunged back at him, robbing him of life.
To find peace and true power in your life, sit back a moment ad be still. Be quiet, be tranquil, and the world will cease to attack you.
Once a great woman saint was passing through a forest infested with robbers. With her was a noble woman bedecked with gold and jewels. When the robbers attacked, the saint took the jewelry of her companion, gave it to the leader of the robbers and said, “Here my son.” When she said “my son”, there was such a depth of love in her voice that the bandit chieftain wept. “ From the time I was a child, no one has called me thus, son – and so lovingly. My mother died when I was so young” From that time on the leader of the robbers became her true son and followed her everywhere . Later he himself became a great saint. Such was the power she had over him.
There is a power which is not the power of wealth and riches nor ego. Neither is it a power exercised to control others. There is a power that is in loving eyes, the power in a gentle touch of the hand, soothing injuries, bringing light to eyes that were blind, healing the unhappy, making the lonely rejoice.
Once upon a time an emperor posed this question to his advisors: “Here, I have drawn a line on this board. Without touching this line in any way, please make it shorter.” After all his counselors had pondered over the problem and had given up, his wisest minister approached the writing tablet. He drew a line parallel to the emperor’s, but just a little longer, and said,” your Majesty, your line is now shorter.”
If you always seek to shorten the lines drawn by others, you will not win your battles. Draw your line from your own genius. Tap your own resources. Apply your concentration with an inner relaxed mind. Center your mind. Your creative energy is waiting to burst forth. There is within you an eternal genius waiting to express itself. Sit back and listen to him. Draw your line with full concentration, without comparing it to the lines of your competitors. Then you will have drawn the longest line of all.
When the famous Macedonian conqueror, Alexander the Great died in Babylonia, eh said to his retinue, “When you bury me, cover me with a shroud. But place both my hands out of the shroud with the palms up and put a pinch of ashes in each, so that the world may see and know what the conqueror of the world is able to take with him.”
If you seek conquest, seek first the power of self conquest. Then seek that power which is service to others. Seek the power to benefit and comfort the many. For only such a power will be remembered. And even if you yourself do not gain from this power, many years hence generations of people will continue to benefit from it, and you will be blessed.
Once upon a time there were there young men, two of whom were not yet born and one who was not yet conceived. Suffering from the pain of miserable poverty, they decided to migrate from the city named Empty. On the way, feeling weary, they rested under the shade of three trees, two of which had never been planted and the third which has not yet grown. Having rested there and eaten of the fruits thereof, they came to three rivers, two of which had no water and the third which had run dry. They quenched their thirsts from these rivers and then crossed over in three boats, two of which had never been built and the other which had no bottom. After a long arduous journey, the three youths came to a city called Future and settled down in three houses, two of which had never been built and the third which had no walls. They lived in Future city ever after.
Your present anxieties and worries are as baseless as the unreal cities in the parable. Although your anxieties and fears and sorrows are here presently the bad events which you base them on are forever gone or have not yet arrived. Clear your mind and in the light of your clear mind you will see that in this very moment there are solutions to the problems which have already gone or not yet arisen.
Which power do you truly wish? That which involves you with the false reflections of the snarling dogs of the world? Or the power of peaceful tranquillity which draws people to you? Which love do you really wish for? The phantom love of wealth and riches or ego and its control of others? Or the infinite power of the heart? Do you wish to succeed by competing against the lines drawn by others? Or do you wish to blaze forth in the creative expression of your own eternal genius? Do you wish to conquer the world and gain only ashes? Or the enduring powers of self-conquest and of one who has served? Do you wish to create and live in fear of the ghosts of past and future? Or to dwell in the city of divine clarity of the moment?
I wish for you the true powers of tranquillity, love, inner genius, service and divine clarity of each moment.
Swami Veda Bharati is Hym-la's spiritual guide. He is also the Spiritual Guide of Association of Himalayan Yoga Meditation Socieities International (AHYMSIN). More of his writings can be found in this website, as well as swamivedablog.org, ahymsin.org, bindu.org, and swamiveda.org.