Yoga has to Be lived and not learnt:

Monica Chand

The Call Beyond
15 Mar 2021

Yoga refers to the movement of the individual from an ordinary state of consciousness driven by personal desires and impulses towards a state of higher consciousness, which expresses as unity, love, power, bliss, all possibility and all knowledge. In that state of consciousness, our life is organised around our divine center or the psychic being.

Yoga also seeks to answer the questions such as why we are born, who we are we, what this world is, why this world was created, who created the world, and where we are headed.

Yoga also has tools such as asanas, pranayama, meditation, chanting, prayer, constant remembrance and offering, and dispassionate work.

Yoga eventually refers to a goal. The goal is the union of the individual soul with the divine. In order to effect this union, one part of the being like our mind, body, or emotions can be taken as the starting point to connect our individual self to the divine, or our entire being can be used to effect this link.

If our individual personality is driven by knowledge and learning, then we can start with seeking answers to the eternal questions through reading, inquiry and deliberation. These eternal questions have been asked since millennia, more intensely in India than elsewhere, and there are numerous texts such as the Vedas and the Upanishads that answer these questions. Some exceptional beings who realised these truths, noted down their experiences in words for all of humanity to benefit from them. However, even though this knowledge has been available to us since millennia, humanity as a whole has not evolved or gone through a transformation.

This tell us that for realizing the higher realities, mental knowledge can be only a starting point. It can be the magnet that pulls us to the object of our knowledge. But if we stay content with just the mental knowledge, nothing real is attained by us and our nature continues to be what we were before getting the new knowledge. For example, we can understand and learn the concept of One in all, that the Divine is one and from Himself He created many. Therefore, we are all one. But till we get a true experience of unity with everything and everyone, we can only operate from a limited place within us, our Mind. We continue to feel isolated from others, we continue to divide people into categories such as friends, family, enemy, self and nonself. We continue to work primarily with the intention of self-gain. The knowledge of our oneness does lend to us a compassionate leaning and an empathetic approach to our relations, but it is not complete and hence marred with imperfections.

Mentally, most people know that we are not the body or the mind, but the Soul. But how many truly live their life making this the central feature? Almost all of us organise our life around the ego, and the world is a reflection of this today. This means that until we get a real experience of ourselves as the Soul, we are not able to translate the mental knowledge into our everyday life. Does this mean we should not seek or try to learn anything mentally?

Here we might need to look at the individual nature of a person. Some people must know and understand something clearly. Some people have faith and devotion, and don’t care for mental knowledge. Yet others believe in working, and through work, finding answers. Hence it is not wrong to try to learn yoga, to seek to know what is implies, its methods, its various turns, paths, its powers, the peace and joy it can bring. But until we translate what we know mentally into action and everyday living, it stays at the level of the mind and doesn’t take us closer to the object of our learning – the Divine. Unless we make the voice of the psychic the central unifying principle of our life and follow its dictates, we are still not practicing yoga. When the knowledge we gain mentally is also put into practice by making the right choices every minute of our life and following that choice, then we can say that we are practicing yoga. Hence, to progress on the spiritual path, we must make yoga not just a mental seeking but the most important pursuit in our life where every thought, every feeling, every action must be offered to the divine. That is why, yoga is not simply something to be learnt, it is something to be lived.

This essay was submitted by Monica Chand as part of the requirements for the Course on Teaching Yoga conducted by Sri Aurobindo Ashram – Delhi Branch in 2019