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.
Asana was meant for the purpose, it actually implies comfort, which is sort of like a little bit different than what people generally put themself through. (Audience laughter) There was this understanding that it’s tied to two things: One is comfort, and the other one is support. Much in the same way that a chair supports you, your body must become a support, which means it must be strong, but the purpose was to make it so that you could sit in a state that is relaxed and comfortable for you to be able to engage in other forms of spiritual practice. And that is why people did it. Of course, there were other benefits such as to promote a very strong constitution and great health. Sickness was considered a huge impediment for spiritual practices. When a person becomes sick their body is plagued with some grave problem. It really becomes a huge disturbance. And so the way that they ate, their practices were to bring about this state of really good health and be able to sit for long periods of time in a relaxed and comfortable way to engage in some other pursuit. So the asana part of it was part of getting a person into this condition to be able to engage.
As part of the yama, niyama thing there was observances in relation to food that you eat. The reason for restricting what you ate, was again, one to promote health and to bring a state of peacefulness in your existence.
One of the things that we can learn are about these forces that exist in this world. Most people are completely oblivious to the fact that there are monumental, powerful forces that are existing all around us. They are defined as what is called the three guna, or the three types of qualities, or as is described by some spiritual teachers as the modes of material nature. And they are fundamentally categorized as the mode of ignorance, the mode of passion and the mode of goodness. In society, in general, the predominant influence that we find in this world is the mode of passion and the mode of ignorance and it stimulates people to desire and hanker for things and cities are built because of this stimulation. The mode of ignorance brings about, you see, when people are intoxicated or drawn to intoxication, laziness, craziness. The mode of goodness is a condition of great peacefulness and not being plagued by desire and hankering. And so the consumption of food, the type of living that a person would… the lifestyle that they would choose would create the most ideal environment for a person now to move on to what is actually, really important.
In yoga, all yoga systems accepted the absolute necessity of being able to exercise control of the mind. In the yoga system, the mind that is not perfectly controlled is categorized as a great enemy. It is a great enemy that causes so much distress and difficulty for the living being. And so when a person adopts a certain lifestyle, certain food choices, certain practices… Pranayam was practiced primarily as a way to bring peacefulness. In this world, hardly anybody knows peacefulness. To be actually able to let go of, to be, exist in this state of peacefulness where there is no great agitation, no disturbance.
Pranayam, of course, affects the ten channels or types of air that circulate within the body that brings about regulation and promotes health, it brings about a state of peacefulness so a person can become deeply reflective. Then there was a condition where people practiced the withdrawing of the senses from the sense objects. This idea is so incredibly foreign to most people outside of some practitioners within the ancient Vedic culture, certain types of Buddhists; but it is a small minority that the, mostly we consider that the object of life is to give free rein to your senses. Whatever you desire, you do it. And advertising is something that is very much focused on this. I mean there have been some really… Am I allowed to say, “Disgusting?” (Audience laughter) ideas that have been promoted over time. This idea of letting yourself go and, of course, we have this other promoted idea of, “Just do it!” And, you know, these ideas of just whatever urge overtakes you, to be free to just do it. You know what? This is what dogs do. They’re just doing it all the time. They’re doing it on the road, with each other… They’re taking a dump, the sniffing, the barking... Whatever, whatever urge overwhelms me I just give free rein to it and just do it! And this is somehow described as ‘spiritual’. I’m sorry, this is like the height of materialism. That when a person is unable to exercise control of the mind or the senses and, in fact, becomes a servant, a dedicated servant to their mind and senses, where they’re just doing whatever is dictated. Sorry, if this is going to offend people that watch, but we do not have any choice but to speak what is the truth, knowing that it is in your interest to hear and consider such things.Show More