Yoga is the most ancient system for physical, mental and spiritual well-being in the world.
The Sanskrit meaning of the word is union of the individual self with the Supreme Self (Original Cause) in a loving, harmonious relationship. The aim of the different yoga processes or schools is to ultimately help the individual achieve complete harmony. The different systems of yoga have techniques and practices ranging from physical postures (asanas), to the deepest stages of meditation, all aimed toward helping a person achieve optimum physical, mental and spiritual well-being. A brief introduction to some of the main yoga systems follows:
Is a preliminary physical system of exercises, beginning with postures or asanas, that aims to bring about harmony between the physical body and the breath. Asanas and pranayama clear the subtle energy channels enabling the practitioner to increasingly experience the life force within their body. It is the most well-known of all the yoga systems in the west.
(Raja Yoga) A yoga system practised in past ages consisting of eight parts, including sitting postures, breathing exercises, silent meditation and ethical guidelines of Yama and Niyama.
Is the cultivation of transcendental knowledge. The aim of jnana yoga is to bring about realisation of one’s spiritual essence, and therefore harmony (through understanding) between the individual atma and his mind, body, and the world. It is also meant to help the atma realise that he is part and parcel of the Supreme Atma and therefore needs to wed himself to, or get in harmony with the Supreme Atma.
Is yoga in action – work done in a spirit of selfless loving service. It is the path of real happiness and freedom. Karma yoga means serving the Whole rather than just living for oneself. Living a life of karma yoga means to see oneself as a servant, not master; as a caretaker of others and our environment, not an exploiter. It is meant to purify one’s heart so that one’s natural spiritual love for the Supreme Atma will blossom.
The apex of yoga and the ultimate goal of life is to achieve pure bhakti, or spiritual love. Such love for the Supreme Soul results in a state of harmony between the individual atma and the Supreme Atma. The process of yoga can be seen as a ladder, with the starting rung of the ladder being yoga asanas and postures and the top of the ladder being karma and bhakti yoga. Although yoga’s physical exercises and breathing techniques are not essential to the yoga way of life, they are extremely valuable in helping achieve optimum physical, mental and spiritual well-being. An individual can simultaneously apply all of these processes in their life in a holistic, integrated fashion. The aim of all these yoga practices is meant to help an individual achieve a life of harmony.
Many people believe that the goal of spiritual life is to destroy the ego. However, from a yoga perspective this makes no sense. Ego means the self or atma – the individual spirit soul who is temporarily residing within a material mind and body. The ego is who we are eternally - our pure identity that stays the same regardless of the various material forms we take on birth after birth. There is no question of destroying the ego. It is what is there when everything is stripped away. It is the spirit soul in a completely purified, natural state. Ego cannot be altered or destroyed - but it can be covered.
The false ego is what covers us when we take on a material form. It is the misconception that we actually are the material mind and body that we are temporarily wearing. When we take birth in a particular material form, we experience ourselves through the lens of that form. If we are born in a human female form, we think I am a girl or a woman. I am a particular age, ethnicity, nationality, economic and social status, religion, mentality. We think I am this or that – all referring to the material mind and body that we are wearing.
But in actuality, we are none of these things – we are the pure spirit soul who is wearing these mental and physical “clothes.” False ego is the mistaken belief that we are the material clothes. Real ego is fully knowing that I am the eternal spirit soul who is wearing the clothes.
Spiritual life involves purifying our consciousness of misconceptions about who we are. When we know who we truly are – eternally are – we can be true to our self. We no longer mistake our self for our body. Thus, we can live in a way that is in harmony with our true nature, even while we are still wearing this physical body. Living in this deep level of integrity, we are naturally happy, peaceful, fulfilled.
In the yoga scriptures, the recommended method of purification for this day and age is mantra meditation (which includes kirtan). A true mantra is the Absolute Truth in sound vibration. This spiritual sound vibration descends from the spiritual platform to the material world without losing any of its potency. In mantra meditation, a person hears and chants or sings this spiritual sound and thus puts themselves in the direct presence of the Supreme. This has a profound purifying effect on our consciousness. With regular practice, we are gradually purified of all that is artificial and thus we experience our true loving and joyful nature.
In his book Small Is Beautiful, noted British economist E. F. Schumacher wrote:
“Insights of wisdom … enable us to see the hollowness and fundamental unsatisfactoriness of a life devoted primarily to the pursuit of material ends, to the neglect of the spiritual. Such a life necessarily sets man against man and nation against nation, because man’s needs are infinite and infinitude can be achieved only in the spiritual realm, never in the material.”
It is a fact that no matter how much sense gratification a person gets, he will never be satisfied. Material food, material things, material sense gratification cannot satisfy the atma (spirit soul). Just as the body needs material food, so the spirit soul needs spiritual food. To try to satisfy one’s spiritual craving with material things leads to endless consumption, greed, envy, violence, and war. Western people have as much sense gratification as one could ever want, yet they are not satisfied. Why? Because they are spiritually empty.
In order to fill up that spiritual emptiness a person needs spiritual food and that spiritual food is to be found in transcendental sound or mantras. Just by adding mantra meditation, on a regular basis, a person will begin to feel inner satisfaction, inner peace and inner happiness, a happiness much deeper and more fulfilling than any happiness to be found in the material realm.
We hold regular meditation courses at Trondheim Meditasjon so that you can easily learn how to apply this simple form of meditation to your life. We also frequently hold Yoga Wisdom evenings where we go deeper into the teachings of yoga, and see how this can help you in your daily life. Once a week we arrange Music Meditation evenings where you can come and spend an evening totally immersed in transcendental sound.
Happiness comes from within, not without!
Everyone in this world shares a number of common bonds. One of those bonds is the bond of brotherhood. Whether we want to acknowledge it or not, it is a fact. We are all eternal spirit souls, temporarily residing in a material body, and we all share a common father, the Supreme Soul. Therefore, we are all children of the same Supreme Soul which makes us brothers and sisters.
Another common bond we share, is that we all desire peace. But while ever we are not recognising the fact that each of us is equal, then peace is not possible. If we do not see beyond the body, we will not see our absolute equality. When we see that each of us is an eternal, spiritual entity – relatives and brothers in the truest sense – then we will become peaceful individually and also as a society. There is no other way for human society to be peaceful.
A society of people who see eternal living beings, and not blacks, whites, Asians, Americans, Hindus, Jews and so forth, will be peaceful and cooperative. A society based on recognition of our common identity as spirit soul will be a society characterised by unity, harmony and brotherly love. It will be a society totally devoid of what is known as racism and prejudice.
The great yoga master, Bhaktivinode Thakur, once stated, "Party spirit is the greatest enemy of mankind." Our loyalties, our love, our sense of duty are all in connection with those of "our team". You see everyone within the team as your brothers or your relatives therefore you don't hate them. The best team, however, is the team which includes everyone, all living beings, where you don't feel that anyone is outside your team. This is true brotherhood.
Forgiveness is a hard one for most, if not all people. We tend to like holding onto our anger – in fact we often relish in it. The reason we hold onto anger is because we are actually craving revenge on that person who we feel has hurt us, caused us pain and suffering. Sometimes this desire for revenge can continue for years, decades or even our entire lifetime. However if we allow these negative feelings to continue, without dealing with them, they will darken our lives and leave us in a very unhappy situation.
Have you ever come across one of those gnarly people who are eaten up with anger? They are so far from being happy. They have no peace in their lives – only conflict – and it radiates from the very core of their being. They can’t find forgiveness in their hearts, only a desire to retaliate and seek revenge for the hurt they have received. However, in the process of holding onto their anger, they end up hurting themselves far more than the person they are angry with.
So how do we perform the very difficult task of forgiving? To begin with, we need to have a basic understanding of spiritual wisdom. The first point being that I am not actually the temporary body or mind, but the eternal spiritual being within. And because I am in the material realm, I have become covered by a film of material contamination which is keeping me in forgetfulness of my real identity. Some of the ingredients of this contamination include hate, anger, envy and greed. These negative qualities aren’t natural to the pure soul, who is by nature full of love and compassion.
In order to cleanse away this material contamination we need a purifying agent. That purifying agent is a Mantra – a spiritual, sacred sound vibration descending from the spiritual realm. A Mantra has the effect of cleansing away the contamination covering our real identity, so that our beautiful spiritual being can start to shine through. This purification process brings about remembrance of my identity as spiritual and reawakens the qualities of love and compassion that are intrinsic to the pure soul. The more I add these Mantras to my life, the more this material contamination will be gradually removed. I will no longer be the victim of anger, envy, greed and hate and I will find forgiveness in my heart.
However I don’t have to wait – I can start now. I can look upon that person who has wronged me as a beautiful spiritual being who is also sadly covered by a film of material contamination, a film of imperfection. Having compassion upon that person, I should understand that I cannot expect everyone to be perfect as this material realm is a place of imperfection. Just as they make mistakes, I also make mistakes. Take the first step and ask for forgiveness even though they may have been in the wrong. It will be like a huge weight has been lifted from your very being. And do you know what? The more you forgive, the easier it gets – and the more peaceful and happy you become because you are acting in your natural position as a spirit soul.
“Stop the world I want to get off!”
Can’t we all relate to that popular saying? I think everyone at some stage has wanted to get off this crazy world that we live in. However, it’s all well and good to say that we want to get off, but when you really think about it, if we do get off, where do we go? Where do we find that peaceful life that we are all searching for? Where do we go to get away from all the craziness, the stress, the worries, the anxieties?
Some people take time out for “me time”. Maybe a massage, a walk in the park, a holiday or sea change will give me some peace. And while it can in fact take our mind off our worries and cares for some time and give us a little respite, that crazy world is waiting for us to return. That short respite we got was only a temporary panacea. We are back to square one
We can keep trying different methods to find peace, but while ever we are searching within the material realm, we are never going to find that deep inner peacefulness that we are all searching for. The reason for this is because we actually aren’t material. Our bodies are material, but our true essence is spiritual. We are eternal spirit souls and we are a completely different energy to the temporary matter that makes up this material realm, including our body and our mind.
Therefore for us to be peaceful within, we need to have this basic understanding that I am not material – I am not my body, or my mind, I am an eternal spirit soul. And secondly, I need to know where to find satisfaction for me, the soul. Anything material is incapable of going deep enough to satisfy me. Only spiritual energy can give me the deep inner satisfaction I crave. So where do I find that spiritual food – that food for the soul? The spiritual food we hunger for is to be found in transcendental sound (sacred Mantras) which descend from the spiritual realm and give us inner-peacefulness, deep satisfaction and spiritual joy.
Yes we live in a crazy world, but when we have that deep spiritual inner peace, that peacefulness of the soul, we won’t feel that we want to stop the world and get off. We already got off!