7th International Yoga Day June 21st 2021
Speech at the Hindu Temple of Rochester
By Amita Bhagat
Welcome to this 7th international yoga day. As Guruji B.K.S. Iyengar’s son, Prashant Iyengar said earlier today in a recorded class, “We are all aware for the protocol for today, but let us try to understand the protocol which is from time immemorial”.
Now we all may know the meaning of yoga. Yoga means union. “yogah karmasu kaushalam”, as Srī Krishna says in the Bhagavad Gīta, which translates as, “yoga is skillful action”. Yoga means to still the fluctuations of the consciousness or to simplify it, we can say, stilling the fluctuations of the mind.
Yoga has many paths, many avenues- karma yoga, bhaki yoga, jñāna yoga and rāja yoga, japa yoga, dhyana yoga, mantra yoga and so on. (as heard by Prashantji)
All paths lead to ONE, I will say it again, all these paths of yoga lead to ONENESS. What is ONENESS here? Oneness is when the individual realizing their pure potential takes hold of it and works hand in hand with the Universal divinity. In Sanātan Dharma each text, for eons has some description of yoga.
In fact, the entire Bhagavad Gīta is a detailed description of yoga! And we see that each chapter is titled as a particular type of yoga sānkhya yoga, karma yoga, jñāna yoga, vibhuti yoga, bhaki yoga etc…
And we see, also, in various hymns dedicated to various deities they are described using the word ‘yōga’.
In the Vishnu Sahasranāmam, verse 3, the following attributes are given to Lord Vishnu:
yōgō yōgavidāṁ netā pradhānapuruṣeśvaraḥ |
Yogaḥ: One atainable through Yoga.
Yogavidāṁ netā: The master of those who are established in the above-mentioned Yoga.
Pradhāna-puruṣeśvaraḥ: The master of pradhana or Prakriti and Purusha or Jiva.
In the Lalita Sahasranāmam, verse 129, the glory of the Devī is given the following attributes:
yōginī yōgadā yōgyā yōgānandā yugandharā |
Yōginī: one who has a yoga form
Yōgadā: Who unites God and soul, who bestows yoga to disciples
Yōgyā: Totally fit for the state of union, one who can be reached through yoga
Yōgānandā: One who is in the form of bliss through yoga; Who delights in union with Siva
Yugandharā: Who bears the yoke of the universe, who supports the yuga
So we can see that the adjectives used to personify the deities are with the qualities of yoga!
For texts, over all this time, many centuries, to keep mentioning the word yoga and what is it, and what to do, how to do, to reach a state yōg, this is definitely a hint, a key, a clue that in modern times has become easy to be distracted from.
Now today on international yoga day, we come to the practice of one of the avenues mentioned earlier named as rāja yoga. Rāja yoga is the ashta ānga yoga. The 8 limbs which are:
1. Yama- Universal codes of conduct- they are ahimsā- non violence, satya- truth, asteya- non-stealing, aparigrahah- non possession, freedom from rigidity of thought, brahmacharya chastity,
2. Nīyama- Personal codes of conduct which are saucha cleanliness, santosha- contentment, tapas- burning zeal, svadhyaya- self-study, ishwara pranīdhāna- surrender to the Divine,
3. Āsana- postures,
4. Prānāyāma- regulation of the energy force,
5. Pratyāhāra- withdrawal of the senses,
6. Dhāranā- concentration,
7. Dhyāna- meditation,
8. Samādhi- absorption
Guruji BKS Iyengar says that, “All mankind lives unwittingly within the truth of yoga. Yoga is one. Yet we find ourselves in the position of having to portion it up, to compartmentalize it, to search to grasp its mechanisms. Why? It is because we all misapprehend reality. Not just partially, but totally. Only the supreme bhaktan is capable, with one peerless gesture of surrender, of turning the Universe inside out. We simply cannot. We are like that person who has put on his shirt inside out and back to front. The only way one can rectify one’s error is to take it off, work out how it should be and start again. Through yoga we take off the shirt of our ignorance, study it and put it back on correctly, as a shirt of knowledge. To do this (like the person turning out the body and each sleeve of his shirt separately), we examine each petal of yoga as if it were separate. Just as that human knows that there is only one shirt, we should not forget that there is only one yoga.”
Āsanās are a very practical way to begin an approach to yoga and whether you are called more towards jñāna yoga or karma yoga or bhakti yog, the practice of āsanās will only enhance your inclined path. Because….. we are more familiar of our exterior than we are our interior. We can see our arms, we can see our legs, though we cannot see our back we are aware of it and can feel it. If we are in a state of illness or rog, we associate only with that situation. The practice of āsanās bring a state of both physical health and also mental health. Guruji BKS Iyengar said that yoga works to the cellular level. It changes your very cells. Through the simple practice of āsanās your very cells can change. Now what might this mean? Yoga āsanās work to bring physical health and be^er functioning of the organs. When the organs are healthy the body feels ārogya, light, healthy and the mind is not distracted or sluggish. Through āsana your very habits will change without saying that they will be changing. One begins to make decisions without fear and more in line with the flow of the Universe. Bad habits begin to fade away and good, sāttvic habits begin to come in. When the body has come towards an ārogyam, and sattvic state the lightness and clarity comes
to easily move the mind towards the same. Through āsanās we learn to develop sensitvity to the interior. Āsanās are a means to go within. Through āsanās we can bring ourselves to better health. Yoga is an experiential subject. I can tell you about the many benefits that yoga āsanās have but you will not know unless you experience it for yourself in your own body. As I mentioned earlier in the personal codes of conduct the nīyamas, there is shaucha or cleanliness. Just as you take a bath every day before coming to the temple, the āsanās are a way to cleanse yourself internally. That internal cleanliness prepares you for which path of yoga you might be drawn to. Bhakti yoga, karma yoga, jñāna yoga… They all work together to achieve a supreme state. It is not that one is better than the other, but rather there are so many paths to choose, so many options for every person to find what suits them best to live and function in society at a higher level of consciousness.
In the Yoga Sūtras, the Sage Patañjali says,
yogāṅgānuṣṭhānādaśuddhikṣaye jñānadīptirāvivekakhyāteḥ As translated by Guruji:
“By dedicated practice of the various aspects of yoga, impurities are destroyed, and the crown of wisdom radiates in glory. By regular and devoted practice, the impurities of the persons’ body and mind are consumed, the causes of afflictions removed, and the crown of wisdom is acquired. This wisdom and achievement keep the person innocent and free of pride.
Yoga can cure or lessen our physical, mental, moral and spiritual sufferings.”
Each person has unlimited potential and through yoga that potential can be realized. That union, that connection with the Divine can be realized. Āsanās are a mere avenue with which to begin and the rest will fall into place.