Yoga For The New Century
In order to fully understand what a real yoga process is, let’s look into the ancient Vedas. The true science of yoga is taught in the ancient Vedic scriptures. “Veda” means knowledge. In ancient times man had the ability to comprehend much more information then he can today and all knowledge was spoken and remembered.
In this day and age yoga is becoming very popular. All over the San Francisco Bay Area we see storefronts and chains barring the name yoga. From “Bickram Yoga” to “Funky Door Yoga.” Different Yoga studios and meditation societies are becoming an important part of our self-preservation. We need something to help us with the stress, anxiety, conflict, and hardship of life.
Whether it is our job, career, family, finances, disease, or our country’s economic status, there is always something that creates a strain on our well beings. The yoga systems presented by these studios may offer a quick relief to the troubled minds and tired body, but as soon as we step out of the yoga studio we are again bombarded by a strong energy that pulls us back into a constant struggle to exist in harmony within the world. At the end of our yoga session we may feel a little better, but these practices offer a very short-lived solution and do not present a system and science that will help us understand the reasons behind our troubles and hardships.
In order to fully understand what a real yoga process is, let’s look into the ancient Vedas. The true science of yoga is taught in the ancient Vedic scriptures. “Veda” means knowledge. In ancient times man had the ability to comprehend much more information then he can today and all knowledge was spoken and remembered. With the degradation of society, man has developed a quick memory loss.
The Vedas were written down by Srila Vyasadeva and still exist today. His Divine Grace AC Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada translated many books, such as, The Bhagavad-Gita As It Is, The Srimad-Bhagavatam, The Brahama-samhita, and more then 140 other books into English, which are all part of the Vedas. All his translated books together constitute the essence and essentials of all Vedas.
From the Srimad-Bhagavatam we can learn that time is divided into categories: Kali –yuga, Satya-yuga, Treta-yuga, Dvapara-yuga ect. We are currently in Kali-yuga, which lasts 432,000 years. Before Kali-yuga was Dvapara-yuga (800,000 years), and before that there was Treta-yuga (1,200,000 years). A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada says in the Srimad-Bhagavatam (SB 1.1.21):
“This age of Kali is not at all suitable for self-realization as was Satya-yuga, the golden age, or Treta– or Dvapara-yugas, the silver and copper ages. For self-realization, the people in Satya-yuga, living a lifetime of a hundred thousand years, were able to perform prolonged meditation. And in Treta-yuga, when the duration of life was ten thousand years, self-realization was attained by performance of great sacrifice. And in the Dvapara-yuga, when the duration of life was one thousand years, self-realization was attained by worship of the Lord. But in the Kali-yuga, the maximum duration of life being one hundred years only and that combined with various difficulties, the recommended process of self-realization is that of hearing and chanting of the holy name, fame, and pastimes of the Lord. The sages of Naimisaranya began this process in a place meant specifically for the devotees of the Lord. They prepared themselves to hear the pastimes of the Lord over a period of one thousand years. By the example of these sages one should learn that regular hearing and recitation of the Bhagavatam is the only way for self-realization. Other attempts are simply a waste of time, for they do not give any tangible results. Lord Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu preached this system of Bhagavata-dharma, and He recommended that all those who were born in India should take the responsibility of broadcasting the messages of Lord Sri Krsna, primarily the message of Bhagavad-gita. And when one is well established in the teachings of Bhagavad-gita, he can take up the study of Srimad-Bhagavatam for further enlightenment in self-realization.”
The Bhagavad-Gita is the oldest scripture known to man and was spoken directly from Krishna Himself to the sun-god Vivasvan, who spoke it to King Manu (the father of man-kind) roughly 120,400,000 years ago. Because of the effects of Kali-yuga: loss of intelligence, memory, pestilence, and degradation of human society, Bhagavad-Gita was re-spoken to Arjuna on a battle field some 5,000 years ago. Krishna’s pastimes here on earth were recorded and can be found in the KRSNA book.
What is the goal of Yoga? The goal of yoga is to attain a state of complete mental satisfaction with one’s self and one’s surroundings. The yoga that is found in the ancient Vedas is called bhakti-yoga. Bhakti means devotional service. Today everyone is trying to serve their body because they identify with their body. They think, “I am this body.” One might say, “I feel like I need to eat, to sleep, to mate, to defend my cause.” This is the senses of the body telling us what to do.
This is identifying with ones body and it is ultimately like a fly that gets entrapped in a spider’s web. The more we endeavor to satisfy our body and senses, the more we get caught up in the web of illusion. Of coarse we should not stop eating, sleeping, mating, or defending, those are our natural tendencies here in the material world. The process of Bhakti-yoga does not teach us to give up using the senses of the body: instead Bhakti-yoga teaches us to engage all of our senses in the service of God, or Krishna. Krishna is the cause of all causes. The origin of everything.
Just as one cannot turn on a light in the house if it is not connected to the electric company: so in order for one to become mentally at ease with one’s surroundings, one must connect himself to the origin, Krishna. We can never really become satisfied if we identify with our body because we are not this body, we are eternal sprit souls and this body we are in is like a shell: a vehicle for the soul to operate. The soul is the driver and our body is like the vehicle. It is stated in the Vedas that we have to realize that the soul, the real individual, does not die. The soul is immortal.
It is stated in the Bhagavad-Gita (2.17):
avinasi tu viddhi yena
sarvam idam tatam
na kascit kartum arhati
Know that which pervades the entire body is indestructible.
No one is able to destroy the imperishable soul.
At birth we are ignorant and it takes time for us to develop our intelligence. When our body dies we forget everything again and the cycle repeats itself at the start of our next birth.
In the Bhagavad-Gita it is stated:
dehino smin yatha dehe
kaumaram yauvanam jara
dhiras tatra na muhyati
As the embodied soul continually passes, in this body, from boyhood to youth to old age, the soul similarly passes into another body at death. The self-realized soul is not bewildered by such a change.
Karma plays a major part in our lives and is essential in understanding the yoga process. When we leave this body, we take our karma with us. If I kill an animal in this life, that animal will have the opportunity to kill me in his next life: for every action there is a re-action. We are making karma everyday, some good karma and some bad. If I work for someone everyday for $10/hr then at the end of the pay period I will get a check. That is my reward for working. You reap what you sow; that is why some people are born rich and others poor, because of their karma. The real yoga process is the one which helps you understand who you really are and also one which shows you how to rid yourself of bad karma.
Bhakti-yoga teaches us that serving the creator, the Supreme Person Krishna, or God, is the best way to connect with our true selves. Once we start realizing who we are, then we can become fully satisfied. The Vedas teach us that we are part and parcel of the Supreme Person, Krishna, and the creator and maintainer of the universe. We are a diluted refection of Him. We have similar qualities, but He is perfect and we are imperfect. We are a part of Him, but we are also parcel of Him because we are not God. God is an individual and we are also an individual. We never loose our individuality and once we understand the position of our individuality, then we can become happy.
It is stated in the Bhagavad-Gita:
yam sannyasam iti prahur
yogam tam viddhi pandava
na hy asannyasta-sankalpo
yogi bhavati kascana
What is called renunciation is the same as yoga, or linking oneself with the Supreme, for no one can become a yogi unless he renounces the desire for sense gratification.
The natural tendency of soul is to be happy, that is why we always are searching for things to make us happy. The Vedas teach us that serving our senses and our body is causing us distress. Our eternal position is to develop a loving relationship with God and then we can become free from this cycle of birth, death, and bad karma. The most effective way to achieve this, the Vedas tell us, is by the practice of bhakti-yoga: the yoga of devotional service to Krsihna.
This world that we live in is full of dead matter and we, as living spirit souls, are made of spiritual energy, which we call the soul, the spark, the life force: which is a part of God because He is the original life force. When we become engrossed in dead matter and temporary material things, we forget our eternal position as eternal living spiritual entities. The Vedic scriptures also teach us that the best way to practice Bhakti-yoga is through mantra meditation and the most effective mantra as advised for this age is the Maha-Mantra:
Hare Krishna Hare Krishna
Krishna Krishna Hare Hare
Hare Rama Hare Rama
Rama Rama Hare Hare
In Sanskrit, maha means “great”, mana means “mind”, and tra means “deliverance.” The maha–mantra, therefore is the “Great Chanting for Deliverance of the Mind.” Especially in our complex modern society, many unwanted thoughts and anxieties cloud the mind. But the chanting of the holy names of God, or the Maha-Mantra, cleanses the mind of all unwanted thoughts and simultaneously fixes it upon Krishna, or God. The Vedas teach us that in this Age of Kali, Krishna descends Himself in the form of the Maha-Mantra.
Sound is the human way of learning. When we are a child, we learn to by sound. A child doesn’t know not to touch the fire, he is told by his parents by sound. He grows up and learns to speak and utter sound to understand and communicate. Uttering the Maha-Matra is the prime way to understand our spiritual nature because the Mantra is the pure spiritual energy of Krishna and is in fact Krishna Himself.
Krishna says in the Bhagavad-Gita,
“tani sarvani samyamya
yukta asita mat-parah
vase hi yasyendriyani
tasya prajna pratisthita”
“One who restrains his senses and fixes his consciousness upon Me, is known as a man of steady intelligence.”
This fixing of the mind upon God is the basic principal of all meditation, and therefore vibration of the transcendental sound of the Hare Krishna maha-mantra is a simple, authorized and effective method of transcendental meditation. To transcend all the material illusion that is really causing the anxiety is the key and the most effective way is by chanting: Hare Krishna Hare Krishna Krishna Krishna Hare Hare Hare Rama Hare Rama Rama Rama Hare Hare.