You cannot learn yoga in a classroom, you can learn asana, pranayama, and some yoga philosophy, but to really learn and live yoga, you must spend time in a yoga ashram. What we have tried to do this weekend is to create an ashram environment here.
We have asked you to keep mouna in the evening and during meals. Mouna is a very important aspect of yogic life. We spend 80 percent of our lives talking, the voice is talking, the mind is talking, other people are talking. It does not stop, humans are worse than parrots, the chattering just goes on and on. Through the practice of mouna we can start to observe ourselves in thought, word and action, and find peace and quiet inside.
The purpose of mouna during meals is to become aware when we eat. We eat too much, we eat too much at the wrong times, and we eat many things which are not good for body and mind. In yogic life we eat at specific times of the day, based on the ayurvedic principle that the digestion is like fire, like the sun, and the main meal of the day should be had at midday when the sun is high in the sky. The sun is the fire of the earth.
Dinner is also taken before sundown. Probably 80 percent of all common diseases are caused by people eating dinner late at night, and sleeping with a full digestive system. Ashram training means that meals are taken during the daylight hours, after sunrise and before the sun sets, which leads to a healthy digestive system and healthy body and mind.
Routine is another important aspect of yogic lifestyle. Swami Niranjan gave a message to all of you: Make the effort to see the sunrise every day. I am sure there are many levels to this message. Perhaps the first point is that the sunrise is such a beautiful time of the day. In Sanskrit it is called Brahmamuhurta, the time of the gods. The energy of the atmosphere is charged with the rising sun. It is a time of inspiration, of a new beginning, of a new day.
If you wake early to witness the morning sun then you can get so much done in the day. By 8 am you have had your bath, done your sadhana, had breakfast, cleaned the kitchen and are ready to start your day’s work! You train yourself to overcome, the tamasic, sleepy, lazy nature.
Once you train yourself to wake to the sun each day it becomes a natural bio-rhythm for your body.
Sleep is very important, and to sleep well, if possible six to eight hours. This allows the body and mind to relax and recharge properly. Sleeping and eating on time is the key to good health. It is very simple, but in today’s society it is difficult, and for that reason many people are sick and stressed.
They have stopped living with the natural bio-rhythms of nature and their own body. The effort has to be made in your own daily routine, as much as possible, to live a disciplined life. The choice is yours, whether to live yogically in regard to meals, routine and sleep or not.
Another aspect of yoga that can really only be imbibed within the ashram is karma yoga. The ashram is based on karma yoga. The residents who live in the ashram, practise karma yoga every moment of their lives. It is a life of service to the yogic mission.
It is through karma yoga that we get to meet ourselves. We try to perform karma yoga without selfish intention and with the understanding – I am doing it for something else it is not for me, but ultimately it is I who is the one who receives the blessings and the training.
This morning it was nice to see everyone doing their karma yoga. Some of you carried two huge bags of plastics and rubbish which they had removed from the roads and gardens here at the property. That intention of doing karma yoga for the sake of doing karma yoga takes us out of our selfish sense of our ego.
We have to work with people who we may not personally like, people from all different cultures from around the world, and speaking different languages. We learn about ourselves and how to improve ourselves. Sometimes we may do the same karma yoga day after day, and through that process we learn to do it better and better and thereby become better people. We learn so many different skills and there is no limit to what you can do within the ashram through karma yoga. Whether it is writing books, editing, kitchen, gardening, administration,
cleaning and sweeping, it purifies the mind. You realize there is nothing you cannot do and there is no attachment to it. You say to yourself, “I can clean this whole building and work away. It is not mine. I have done it for someone else, and that is breaking my ego.”
These are the aspects of ashram life that we imbibe while living in the ashram, whether we stay one week, one month or years, and this awareness becomes who we are, and that is yoga.
—28 July 2017, Raquira, Colombia