So we are going to talk a little about the yoga system and its purpose. The yoga system is meant for the purpose of complete and perfect self-realization. There are many paths or processes of yoga and they award different levels of realization. The most well-known, probably the most well-known yoga system that people in the West are more familiar with is the process of Hatha Yoga. Hatha Yoga actually only constitutes one part, a small part of the Astanga Yoga system. This is where anga, ‘anga’ means like, limb and asta means eight, the eight limbs of yoga, and they were eight categories of activity that were performed for the explicit purpose of coming to the platform of complete self-realization.

The need to actually find an actual yoga master is one of the most critical things that a serious student must seek to do in order to be delivered a proper understanding of these yoga texts and to be guided in their practices, their spiritual practices. The ancient rishis and yogis, they had a very unique perspective of the world; completely different than the common person. The common person sees many things and assumes many things to be factual, when in fact much of the so-called truth that they accept is, in fact, illusory and incorrect.

So this process of yoga is really to bring a person to this platform of actual spiritual realization, to begin to really explore the very nature of life itself. The understanding that is taught in all of the yoga texts is that within this universe, within this world that we know, there are actually only two fundamental types of energy. One is called matter and the other one is known as spirit.

Another characteristic of all living beings is the search for happiness; everybody wants to be happy. Do you know anybody that wants to be on a bummer? (Audience laughter) You know, everybody is doing everything that they can to avoid it and we have this really strange situation. Do you know anybody that's actually perfectly happy? Have you met anyone, do you know anyone… Look at your parents. Who are the people that you actually know… your parents, I mean, they are really perfectly happy, aren't they? Well, ummm, no. Your uncles and aunties, your friends, close friends, your boss at work, you just look at people; who do you actually know, personally yourself, that lives in a state of real happiness? You know if we're really thoughtful about it, I mean, we just like to fantasize and watch movie stars and rock stars and just, you know, the idea of a picture. I mean it's so ridiculous. The selfie now or whatever, you know...

There is another thing that really drives all living beings. This is the desire for love, the desire to love someone, something, and to be loved. Again, everybody is on the love quest. The guys don't like to admit it... the girls are all gushy about it and everything, although the guys are getting all metrosexual and strange (audience laughter) and letting the feminine side come out or whatever, I don't know. But, fact is, everybody feels, I mean you see it even in small children. It's kind of like really fun, amazing. You watch little kids, little boys and girls start playing with each other and they sort of like, (clicks fingers) you know something going on there (laughs) and it’s actually a throwback to a previous experience that they bring into this particular life but it doesn't take very long for people to start developing these desires to love and it comes in a myriad of ways.

So when we talk about a lot of these things particularly as an introduction to yoga and spirituality people often start kind of like spazzing out because they have different ideas and concepts. Many of them are quite limited in their understanding, like, for instance, this word ‘spiritual’ is used so often and thrown around and there’s this basic idea that materialism is bad or not desirable and spirituality is good. But when you ask people to actually define it, there is this idea that spirituality is kind of like ‘feel good’ kind of stuff – cotton candy and rainbows, is that… and pink poodles. (Audience laughter) Is that spirituality? Dolphins, sorry, sorry, sorry, dolphins and rainbows and crystals, you know.

But getting back to the real complete yoga system. It was required when you followed the Astanga Yoga system that you would take certain vows and you would have certain observances. These fit under the umbrella of yama and niyama; and they were fundamental things that people practiced in the yoga system, and it was part of the ancient Vedic or spiritual culture that made it so a person could make very great advancement in spiritual life. Apart from them… and we can talk about these things in some detail later. Apart from yama and niyama, asana was practiced.

PERSON IN AUDIENCE: What mantras... what mantras can you suggest for chanting on beads?

Mantras? You know, a really good foundational mantra to teach people is the Gauranga mantra, even to use on beads. Or Nitai-Gauranga, or Nitai-Gauranga Haribol, or Haribol Nitai-Gaur Nitai-Gaur Haribol. One of the reasons that this mantra is so powerful and wonderful is because you do not need any qualification to use it and to derive tremendous benefit from it. It becomes foundational for all spiritual practice.