The nature of the atman or soul is sat cit ananda, pure consciousness, highest knowledge, and bliss absolute. When one acts according to higher knowledge, the guidance of universal energy reveals dharma, purpose in life. With higher knowledge reflected in the mind, one feels at hOMe anywhere. However, either wrong knowledge or a mixture of the right and wrong knowledge often guides.
Sage Patanjali writes in his classic Yogasutras that wrong knowledge is one of the five vrttis or modifications of the mind that block the light of consciousness. The vrttis are fivefold; some are painful and some are non-painful in nature: correct knowledge, incorrect knowledge, imagination, sleep, and memory.
Wrong knowledge is illustrated in the well-known Vedic story about a man walking at night who suddenly becomes scared, thinking he sees a poisonous snake only to realize later it was a stick.
Such is the power of maya or illusion. Through the concealing power of the klesas, afflictions of mind, right knowledge filtering through the mind is colored by the existing samskaras, prints in the mind. Klesas are faults that create a veil before right knowledge. In Sutras 1, 2 and 4 of the Yogasutras, Sage Patanjali lists these five klesas: avidya (ignorance), asmita (ego), raga (attachment), dvesa (aversion), and abhinivesa (fear of death).
The only remedy for attaining mental clarity is removing unwanted samskaras from the mental sheath. One may cleanse the mind of wrong knowledge by applying right knowledge that is known either by personal experience or spoken through the wise. Knowing the challenges of controlling the mind, Sage Patanjali recommends the eight-limb yoga sadhana: yama (control), niyama (observances), asana (posture), pranayama (breath control), pratyahara (control of senses), dharana (concentration), dhyana (meditation), and samadhi (expanded awareness).
A complete yoga sadhana, such as the eight-limb yoga described in the Yogasutras, is a direct means to clear the mirror of the mind so that higher knowledge can reflect unimpeded. Jnana, higher knowledge, is always present, as it is one of the aspects of our soul or atman. Regular practice polishes the mirror of the intellect, allowing for the ancient truths to be reflected in the individual mind.
Reading books, sitting near the wise, and attending endless seminars are beneficial; however, that Truth resides within must never be forgotten. For jnana of the world, one studies the knowledge of the world, but for jnana of the Self, one must turn within to realize the source of all knowledge.
Everyone shares the one universal mind called mahat. In mahat all knowledge of the world and spirit resides. It is possible to access this knowledge either through one’s own realization, through mental clarity, or by using right knowledge others have already received. The yogi accesses the universal mind through right aim accompanied by the power of dharana, concentration, and then returns from samadhi with ageless knowledge. For this reason, seekers have sought darsana, the yogi’s presence.
Satsanga and personal practice are given great importance on the spiritual journey. Satsanga, sat meaning “truth” and sanga meaning “company”, is often translated as keeping company with those who seek truth or company with the wise, the yogis. Many yoga traditions have regular gatherings with a guru, the accomplished teacher, where chanting and jnana lectures are given. Buddhism has the trinity of teacher, teachings, and sanga meaning “community.” Similarly in yoga, satsanga has a trinity: ageless truth, personal practice, and community.
GURU (AGELESS TRUTH)
At different stages of one’s spiritual journey, various teachers make themselves available. In the classic story of the first guru, Sage Dattatreya states that he had 24 gurus ranging from teachers in nature to various people in life.
The ageless truth is prevalent everywhere; therefore, anyone and anything can be a teacher for us. The more we realize this, the more magical life is, as there is always opportunity for growth.
Great inspiration is derived from reading scriptures, which are the teachings from great masters. Svadhyaya, scriptural study, is one of the five niyamas that Sage Patanjali lists as universal laws by which to live. The niyamas are sauca (purity), santosa (contentment), tapas (self-discipline), svadhyaya (self-study/scripture study), and Isvara pranidhana (devotion to the Divine).
The yoga tradition always recommends enjoying satsanga either with a teacher or with a group of students who come together for practice. Just as trees that surround a sandalwood tree begin to smell like sandalwood, the company of a yogi illuminates surrounding hearts and reminds one what is possible.
SADHANA (ABHYASA~PERSONAL PRACTICE)
Through association with the teacher and/or teachings, a student gains understanding about what to practice at home. A regular practice is called abhyasa. Sage Patanjali states that abhyasa must be consistent over a long period of time to reap the full benefits. Personal practice creates a bridge between receiving the teaching and offering service to the community. Yoga sadhana removes the veil of wrong knowledge and polishes the mind so that the buddhi, intellect, shines forth.
Wrong knowledge is either the result of external acceptance or a result of mental prints that repeat due to desire and attachment.
There are various means for removing wrong knowledge. One is through iccha sakti, willpower. There are three great energies called jnana, iccha, and kriya. These are within, allowing consciousness to will knowledge into manifestation. However, as determined as one might be, willpower is often weak; often an individual succumbs to the desires of the body and mind. Through abhyasa, the strength to replace the unwanted, deep-rooted prints with positive ones is gained.
Sadhana balances the life-energy, allowing right knowledge and action to flow effortlessly. Self-improvement allows one to offer more to the community. It is rewarding to give and receive support from positive group energy; however, one only has as much to offer to the community as is developed within. Initially, an individual might come to yoga to stretch the body. With consistency, the practice becomes a mind stretch and then a spiritual stretch into higher awareness.
For abhyasa to be effective in elevating consciousness, it must be based on this trinity principle: As above, so below. Yoga philosophy expounds upon the triple principle inherent in creation. From the essence of atman, sat cit ananda (consciousness, knowledge, bliss) to the three gunas or essential energies of creation (sattva, rajas, tamas) to the three bodies surrounding the soul (physical, subtle, causal), sadhana needs to reflect the trinity. It may be called abhyasa purnima, a complete yoga practice, only when it includes tapas, disciplines, for the body, mind and spirit.
SANGA (COMPANY, COMMUNITY)
As the ageless teachings state, when two or more are gathered together for the benefit of upliftment, the light becomes brighter. Companionship for support of new disciplines brings more energy to the practice. One may be influenced by others to do something out of the ordinary by keeping such company or being in certain surroundings.
Through regular practice, inner strength develops, enabling one to avoid the temptation of doing what others do when it is not in one’s flow. But until such strength is developed, one should be like a protected small tree and benefit from the support of positive group energy. As the tree grows, it provides protection and fruits for others to grow.
Practicing yoga offers many opportunities to be with those of like-mind. Yoga classes, conferences, retreats, and asramas offer a schedule of programs and forum for study for various size groups. The stimulation from practicing yoga together allows healthy friendships to emerge, giving inspiration for conscious growth.
FAMILY / FRIENDS
The inner wealth that springs forth from having a personal practice creates a calmer mind through positive samskaras. This is reflected in better relationships and a more positive lifestyle in general. Living the teachings of yoga is the greatest gift one may share with loved ones and all friends known and unknown.
As one’s practice of yoga continues to deepen, the community begins to feel like an extended family. Then with open arms this feeling expands to the planet, including respect for the environment, animals, and all life. At the heart of yoga is the lifestyle of ahimsa. Ahimsa means non-violence toward oneself or others. It is one of five yamas or restraints listed by Sage Patanjali in Chapter 2, Verse 30: nonharming, truthfulness, nonstealing, sense control, and greedlessness. Community awareness is impossible without abiding by this basic universal law. Ahimsa is to be honored in mind, speech, and body.
Mental ahimsa is reflecting positive thoughts upon manas, the mental field. This balances emotions and enhances mental clarity.
DHARMA AT HOME
One truly feels at hOMe when in tune with dharma. To know and be what one has come to do is mental freedom. The mind is a reflection of buddhi, intuitive knowledge. When the thought-waves become sattvika, harmonious, the inner guidance of Self being expressed through buddhi is felt. Life is guided by higher knowledge and dharma will flow as karma in action.
Realizing dharma prompts one to gravitate to one or more communities in order to contribute talents, or a person may become the inspiration for another service community to emerge.
The success of a community is far greater when the individuals who make up the community continue personal practice. Sadhana illuminates the mind, opening the spiritual heart. Some begin practice and start to feel so good that they sometimes decide they don’t need to continue the practice. They may have achieved some good knowledge, lower samadhis (expanded awareness), but without steady progress, evolution doesn’t continue. The community grows when all work together to improve themselves.
At times people underestimate their role or part on the planet. Everyone is here on planet Earth for a reason, not by chance. To realize ones dharma and act upon it gives meaning to life. The balanced flow of life-energy that arises from sadhana provides the fuel to accomplish goals. To achieve this, the three bodies need to balance.
Three bodies surround the atman: causal, subtle, and physical. Sadhana harmoniously aligns the bodies giving greater ability to flow with dharma. It is the most direct means for awakening to higher knowledge. Living in higher knowledge, one feels at hOMe in oneself, in the community, and with the Divine Self.
There is no greater knowledge than knowledge of the inner Self. All other knowledge is transient to awareness. Knowledge change is witnessed through various stages of life. What babies think isn’t what children, teens, or adults think. Gradually, knowledge disappears in various degrees as the body ages. Then when the body leaves the planet, new knowledge is acquired within the subtle form. Later one incarnates and starts again with baby knowledge.
Through all these changes the atman is unchanging, while witnessing the change in knowledge. Therefore, the wise seek atman vidya, knowledge of atman, acquiring transitory knowledge only as needed, for time passes and baby knowledge soon fills the mind once again.
One should maintain regular sadhana. The personal transformation achieved from sadhana also serves as an inspiration to the community. Remember the illumined souls who have made great contributions to planet Earth.
Yoga gives the abhyasa for all to experience the inner wealth. The subsequent gifts from this realization bear the greatest fruit when shared with others in your community. Then one will feel at hOMe wherever one may be.