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November 1999

High on Waves

Health, Harmony and Peace
Swami Niranjanananda Saraswati

Yoga Therapy
Dr Rishi Vivekananda Saraswati

An Experience of Yoga
Rowena Wodehouse

Finding a Balance
Swami Prembhava Saraswati

Attachment and Non-Attachment
Swami Niranjanananda Saraswati

Yoga for Prisoners
Swami Yogatirthananda Saraswati

Teaching Yoga in a Prison
Sannyasi Atmatattwananda

Benefits of Yoga for Prison Inmates
Sannyasi Janaki



Health, Harmony and Peace

Swami Niranjanananda Saraswati

What is the definition of a perfect human being? What does it mean when different enlightened beings tell us that we have the ability to become a perfect human being, an enlightened being? The answer to this question does not lie in any philosophy, belief system or religion, but if you look at your own life process you will find the answer, starting with the time when you were conceived. The union between the parents was not only physical but also emotional. Intense love and ecstasy were experienced and the seed of the body was planted when both forces, the male and the female, were experiencing this unity. That is our original karma, the original samskara or impression. We may have messed it up later on, but the first impression in this life was one of union, joy, love and closeness. If this experience can be revived then illumination takes place, not only of spirit, but also of mind and body.

After the seed of life is planted in the womb of the mother, the shakti, then that force of creation becomes responsible for managing the growth of the seed into a human body. When that shakti is pure, harmonious and channelled, it provides further good impressions, samskaras and attitudes, which help one to find health, harmony and peace. Health is physical, harmony is mental, peace is spiritual, and a healthy body, a harmonious mind and a peaceful spirit is the definition of the perfect human being. We are going to look at these three aspects one by one.

Yogic view of health

From the yogic perspective, physical health is the manage-ment of different physiological conditions that arise, whether in the form of a simple ailment or a life threatening disease. The aim of yoga in health is not eradication or curing of the problem, but the management of these conditions. After all, our body is subject to changing conditions, changing health patterns, changing environment, and it is going to react to these changes either positively or negatively.

If the body reacts in a positive way to a change in diet or environment, such as pollution, then you will say, “I have a very strong immune system and nothing affects me. I feel healthy, I feel strong, I feel happy.” But if it responds in a negative way then you will start having breathing problems, cardiac problems and other symptoms that we know and recognize as disease.

Our aim is to convert the negative responses of the body into positive ones. Therefore, it is not the treatment or the curing or the eradication of disease that indicates health, but proper management of the physiological conditions. You may suffer from a life threatening disease too, but if you are able to manage it properly, then it does not remain life threatening because you can overcome it.

Five bodies

Another factor to be considered is that, although disease is physical, in our body there are five different bodies existing together. Just as yoghurt and butter are contained in milk, but cannot be seen until the milk is churned, similarly our body also has different modes of expression. According to the yogic system, the manifest physical body is known as annamaya kosha and within this is pranamaya kosha, the dimension of energy. Contained within pranamaya is manomaya kosha, the mental dimension, while within manomaya is vijnanamaya kosha, the dimension of the transcendental mind, and within this transcendental mind exists the experience of anandamaya kosha, the body of bliss.

So, when you work with the physical body you are also influencing and altering the vitality, the mind, the psychic dimension and also anandamaya. This chain reaction, which starts at the physical level, actually finishes at the spiritual level, and the yoga practices we teach people are not only going to help them physically but also mentally and spiritually. This is the concept of yogic management, the real yogic therapy, which leads to health at the outer level and harmony at the mental level. This harmony of mind is the most crucial factor in our lives.

Waves on the ocean of the mind

Thoughts, desires, feelings and emotions are waves on the surface of the ocean of the mind. They are the vrittis, they are not the mind. The mind is pure energy and the vrittis are the waves on its surface, which interact with the environment and the people in it.

The experiences of the mind are subject to the situations in which we find ourselves and the influences of the environment, which are mainly created by people. In yoga we say we create our own environment, willingly and sometimes unwillingly too, but most of the time we create it because we wish it to be so. Then when it disturbs the natural condition of the mind, it leads to what we call confusion or conflict. This disharmony has to be managed because it leads to a reduction in the mental faculties and strengths.

When we are confused we realize our wisdom is not working, but when we are clear we realize our wisdom is very powerful and strong. When we are in conflict we realize that our knowledge is not really providing us with solutions and we start searching for them. But when we have a clear mind, the solutions are just there, without us having to look anywhere for them.

These conditions or states of confusion and clarity, conflict and resolution, ignorance and wisdom, represent expressions of mind which are internal and which are not related to any vritti or external influence. They are related to a state of disharmony that is deeply internal, arising out of deep impressions, karmas and instincts rooted in the unconscious mind.

Shedding the skin

The mental process has to be understood from the yogic perspective if we want to find the proper rationale behind our experiences. Yoga says that when you meditate you have to find the source of the vrittis, to go back to the original point of the outer expressions. Take, for example, the practice of antar mouna. In this practice, we pick up a thought and try to see the idea, the attitude, the emotional content behind it. It is like peeling an onion. An onion has different layers and if you keep peeling off one layer after another, at the end there is nothing. There is no seed in the centre, there is one layer on top of another.

Similarly, in the mind there are different layers and we can say that one thought is one layer of the onion. You can peel off layers and layers and ultimately find that there is nothing. A feeling is an onion. A belief is an onion. An emotion is an onion. Attachment is an onion. Onions play a very important role in one's spiritual life. So, in the practice of antar mouna you peel the thought onions, and in the practice of antar darshan you peel the emotion onions. In this way you go on seeing the content of each mental expression and finding out which one is associated with ego, with transitory likes and dislikes, and seeing if there is any harmony in it. The moment you find the harmony you stop there. You have shed the skin, removed the veil.

Attaining harmony and peace

What exists ultimately is nothing, but this nothing is recognized as the state of harmony, peace, equilibrium, equipoise and balance. When the nothing becomes some-thing, that something is recognized as a fluctuation, a vritti. Imagine a straight, flat line; that is harmony. But if there is movement on that flat line, little bumps or waves travelling from one end to the other, all those different movements represent disharmony, the vrittis of the mind, its modifications and patterns. From the time of our birth to the time of our death we are continuously fluctuating, sometimes moving up, sometimes going down, and we say that it is the law of life and that it cannot be changed. But it can be changed. It can be changed provided you are able to find the flat line. This flat line is the harmony we attain through meditation.

Meditation is a process, but at the same time it is a state. Meditation is a system of practice, but at the same time it is an experience. It is a process of stilling the mind, a system you follow to gradually withdraw the mind. It is a state of tranquillity and the experience of harmony that results. We need to understand the necessity and the validity of meditation in our life, because the moment we reach this flat line, harmony, the physical and the spiritual dimensions meet together in the mental dimension, and that is a spiritual experience. That is the experience of peace, shanti. In this way you cover the physical, the mental and the spiritual dimensions together.

The first samskara

Our conception, the seed, the first impression of love, union and ecstasy, is our starting point. Later on in the course of our lives, due to the influence of the environment, which is recognized as social, family and cultural conditioning, we tend to lose awareness of the first samskara. Once that awareness is lost the body becomes subject to disease, and disease leads to decay and decay leads to death.

There is an important belief in the ancient traditions that if you can control and manage disease, you can control the process of decay and obtain what is known as eternal youth. Eternal youth does not mean that you remain a youthful sixteen all the way through. Eternal youth means that your body is not subject to decay and disease. You age, but the vitality, the ojas, of the cells is not lost. Even at the age of one hundred, the faculties, the stamina, the strengths, the qualities of your body are the same as those of a person who is sixty. This is a belief, and on thinking about it we can accept that it can happen. Why can it happen? For the reasons stated before: the attainment of physical health, mental harmony and spiritual peace, from realizing the purity of the self that is the love, the ecstasy and the union.

In philosophy, when we say that unity is the aim of yoga, unity of spirit, union of the individual consciousness with the higher consciousness, what it means is that you recognize the first experience. There you recognize the ultimate too, because it is that first one which pervades throughout the entire life experience. Just peel the skin of the onion. It can happen with the practice of asanas, pranayama and medita-tion. Kriya yoga and kundalini yoga can assist and quicken the process of peeling the onion, but in reality, asanas, pranayama and meditation are the three important practices to realize our nature.

Asana, pranayama and meditation

Asanas are not just mechanical performances, you have to add the component of awareness and you have to deepen the awareness while you are performing the asana. Only then will you be able to realize asanas as they are. This awareness, when it deepens, takes you to the subtle layer of prana and then to other subtle layers of the mind. If you can follow an integrated program of asana, pranayama and meditation, you will find that these three practices have a lot to offer. Concentration, awareness and relaxation are integral parts of an asana and when you can add the three together while performing an asana you will have an experience that will be closer to the real one we are trying to bring out.

It is the same with pranayama. It is recognized that pranayama activates the pranic energy and of course to do this we use the breath. Breath and prana are linked together very intimately, we can say they are fused together. You cannot separate breath and prana, you cannot separate air and prana. There is no division between them, yet they have distinct identities. Breath becomes subject to oxygen and carbon dioxide, and air is subject to oxygen and carbon dioxide, but prana is free from both. It is just energy which is ingested by the body. When you are able to harmonize this prana shakti, you can manage various physiological and psychological disorders.

Why are thousands of people practising Reiki today? Why are people interested in the practice of prana vidya? To move and harmonize their pranas, because we realize that these pranas play a very vital and dynamic role in managing physiological and psychological conditions. Once the pranas are activated, the line to the deeper mind becomes clear, and meditation of course works with the deeper mind. So, one should follow an integrated program incorporating asanas, pranayama and meditation in the daily routine.

Australia, February 1999

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