In the snares and pitfalls of life, one cannot allow oneself to be divorced from reality. Patanjali’s yamas, moral abstinences, and niyamas, observances of conduct or character, as popularly interpreted, were for an age that is gone and done with, and the simple adamantine fact is that they have no place, if professed according to these interpretations in the world of today.
In the good old days the air that our ancestors breathed was full of these virtues. The vitiated air that we breathe today is full of falsehoods, violence, and countless other imperfections. Truth, satya, non-injury, ahimsa, etc., are admittedly forces of great potency, but they are so only if one practises them to perfection in obedience to an inner compulsion. Yoga is not concerned with the cultivation of impossible virtues. We had better leave them to the moralists.
Yoga is a rational science with technical systems for stilling the turbulent mind, for harnessing the physical and mental energies, and for maintaining its resilience. In a word, yoga aims at developing an integrated personality. The best way to achieve this is a synthesis of bhakti, karma, jnana, and raja yoga. Man should not be all intellect, he should not be all emotions. There should be a happy blending of both, otherwise there will be no peace in his life.
The word yoga is of great significance. It is derived from the Sanskrit root yuj, to unite. Yoga means union, identification. Identify with the joys and sorrows of everyone, extend your horizons, live above the pettiness of life. If you take yoga in this sense, it ceases to be individualistic. Just as a mother and child have emotional identification so should you have an emotional integration with all around you.
Yoga stands for both physical and mental wellbeing. It comes to suffering humanity as a blessing in the guise of psychosomatic treatment. It comes to the seekers of truth as the shortest cut to God-realization. Indeed, yoga is a blueprint for perfection. You can consider it as a program, a method, and a philosophy. It is a program in so far as it assumes the shape of a movement with definite aims and objects. It is a method in the sense that yogic practices are methodically pure. Whatever is one’s spiritual orientation, meditation and other practices can always be very useful. Few methods of self-realization are so universally valid and practicable. Yoga is a universal recipe and truly the only modus operandi for self-realization.
People make noble resolves, they want self-realization, they wish to follow high ideals. But there is a snag: they have no willpower. There can be no material or spiritual progress without willpower. Do not develop a split personality, a show of willpower in public but pandering to weaknesses in secrecy, a conflict between ego and super-ego.
Do you enjoy a happy and harmonious life? Are you afire with enthusiasm in your day-to-day activities? When adverse circumstances try to crush you, do you rise above them with a cool head and an easy assurance? If not, take to yoga.
YOGA, Vol. 3, No. 3–4, March–April 1965 & YOGA, Vol. 5, No. 10–11, October–November 1967