Yoga for the Modern Man

The modern man symbolizes a complex personality existing between conflicts within his own self. One side of his personality is in direct opposition with another side of his personality. The way he lives, he does not agree with; the way he thinks, he does not accept; he builds a society, he does not approve of it; he develops a culture, he criticizes all the time. He lives a certain type of life and he goes on complaining about it. The modern man runs after money, but he will always be criticizing this attitude. Whatever he does now is for sensual pleasure, but listen to him and he will be always criticizing it. This is a very conflicting personality which he has developed.

The cult of this personality came from the west. The whole west is Christian, which has a philosophy, a religion and metaphysics. They are all Christians and have their own faith about wealth, chastity and purity, God and transmigration. They have a set philosophy, but in the last 150 to 200 years, the way they have lived and the way they have loved to live is totally opposite to what their religion stands for. Now you find most of them leading a type of life, and at the back, criticizing it.

You eat non-vegetarian food and you say, ‘Oh, it is not good’. You are a chain smoker and you say, ‘Smoking is bad and it causes cancer’. You run after sensual pleasures and say it is bad. This is called conflict in man’s personality and this is the definition of the modern man.

The ancient man of olden times accepted and respected what he lived. Even if it was bad, it did not matter. The way he lived, he said, ‘Theek hai, all right’. So there was no conflict in his personality. The Mahabharata and other shastras say:

Manasi anyat, vachasi anyat, karmani anyat.

Something is in your mind, you speak something else and you do something else.

That is the definition of a conflicting personality and that is the modern man. He tries to fight, he makes bombs, war materials, war planes, ballistic missiles, and at the top of his voice he says, ’War is no good’. This is called mass conflict, total conflict.

Manasi ekam, vachasi ekam, karmani ekam.

You speak and do what is in your mind.

This is called an integrated personality. Modern man has not got this integrated personality. As a result of this, he has so many sicknesses.

I will give you an example. When I go to South America and other foreign countries where the people are all Catholic and modern, they want to divorce their husband or wife and yet they don’t want it. They want a divorce and they don’t want it; both things are happening in their mind at the same time. If such things happen in your mind, then you will have personality errors. What are those personality errors? Imbalance, indecisiveness, lack of confidence, no willpower, fear and anxiety all the time. They come to me and say, “Swamiji, please bless us so that my husband or my wife may unite with me.” I say, “You are perfectly all right, but why has this divorce taken place?” They say because she is bad or because he is bad. I say, “If she is bad or he is bad, why don’t you accept it?” They say, “No, no, I don’t want it.” But after fifteen or twenty minutes he or she is talking in such a violent language as if she wants it. Like this, modern man has been suffering from lack of awareness. I will say not lack of awareness but lack of insight. There is something called insight, when you go into the matter then you know exactly what you are doing.

Another point that we have to understand about the modern man is that materialism is very important for him. If he goes to a church, a temple or a shrine, he does not go for God but for his material motives. If he goes to a swami, a siddha or Satya Sai Baba, he does not go for his sake, he goes there for the sake of material motives. It means, whether it is a God, a mantra, a temple or a mahatma, or even a virtuous life like living satya and ahimsa, truth and non-violence, modern man says that it is good for his life.

Even spiritual actions are motivated by material desires and ambitions. The ancient man was different. Even when he did worldly things, if you asked him ‘What are you doing this for?’ he would say, “God has ordained me to do this karma and I am just fulfilling his wishes.” Behind his material life, he had spiritual ambitions. Modern man has a religious life for material ambitions. He is sometimes disappointed. He goes to the tirthas, shrines, to a mahatma, but nothing happens. His ambitions are not fulfilled. So finally he gets angry and says, “Oh, there is no God!”

Recently I came across a woman who told me, “I had only one son and he died. I have thrown out all my murtis, torn all the pictures and I have given the Bhagavad Gita and Durga Saptashati to somebody else.” I asked, “What for?” She said, “I don’t believe in these things.” I said, “You don’t believe in these things because your son is dead.” So you cherish even a religious, spiritual life for the sake of the material ambition. If your material ambitions are not fulfilled then you don’t care for God, you do not care for spiritual life, you do not care for higher life.

The boon of yoga

Yoga has come as a boon for the modern man, because in the practice of yoga he sees that his mind changes, his emotions become balanced, he can have insight into things and see the result. I am not giving the example of India because this is not the time to give it; perhaps after fifty years I will give it. I am giving you the example of the west. There people were so neck­deep and headlong into material life, they did not care for their wife, children or family. After they were exposed to yoga, what happened? Indians are dressed nicely, tip-top, even if they are from the lower middle class, they are well dressed. These westerners, when they come to India, they come in rags. Yoga has made this change – they completely got rid of the complex and inhibitions about dress and personal comforts.

Go to Benares, go to Puri, you will find lower middle class Indian people who try to get a better hotel with attached bathroom. These western boys and girls will be sleeping on the railway platform. Why has this change come about? Is it because they have lost some money? Or is it because they have become so poor? No. Or is it because money has given a kick or a blow? No. When they practise yoga, the artificial thinking which was imposed on them by their society, by their local tradition, by their current fashionable tradition completely dropped out of them. There are boys and girls even now, in the last 20 years, who have not smoked. They have not even had a drop of alcohol. They have not even taken a bit of non-vegetarian diet, who have not been with a boy or a girl prior to marriage. This is something new in those countries. This new change and many other aspects have been brought about by the practice of yoga.

into it, you will see that the soda in the hot water will take all the grease out of your cloth. In the same manner, when you practise yoga, it takes the grease of artificial ambitions out of your mind and out of your life.

I have been going to the west these last twenty years or so, to the houses of westerners, Indians, Asians, South East Asians and Africans. I can see the difference. Whereas the houses of westerners are becoming simpler, the homes of Africans, Indians and Asians are becoming very complicated. You have a fridge, a cupboard, you have another cupboard in which there are a lot of idols and many other funny things. In the bathroom, my God! What do you not have? I cannot even relate the number of cosmetics, soaps, brushes and things you have. There is the nail polish and this polish and that polish.

Sometimes, I think perhaps yoga has cleaned the artificial rubbish of the west and has thrown it into our country. I often say to my swamis, “Look at what type of a house this is.” The type of house shows you what type of mind the people have. A clean mind has a clean house, a complicated mind a complicated house, a loaded mind has a loaded house, a poor mind has a poor house. The way you keep your almirah, the way you keep your bed, the way you choose a bed sheet, the way you choose a saree and jewellery – all these show your external life which is an expression of your internal mind.

Another point that has to be noted is this: when you are chasing materialistic life, sometimes you do it out of compulsion and sometimes you do it out of ambitions. To fulfil your ambitions or to make both ends meet, you lead this life. During this period, you develop tension because you cannot attend to everything. You have to have your child educated, daughter to be married, the poojas and shraaddhas to be performed, court cases to be attended, mother-in-law in this village, father in that village, uncle there; besides this, there is taxation, sales tax, income tax and maybe if you are a big man, then this minister or that officer is coming, guests are coming all of a sudden. All these things you cannot attend to. If at all in between all of this, your son, your wife or a member of your family happens to fall ill and has to be taken to the All India Institute of Medical Sciences, Delhi, then who knows what exactly you are going to do? Whether you are going to attend to your shop, the factory, that important meeting or going to the All India Institute of Medical Sciences.

This causes a sort of anxiety, worry and mental tension, resulting in blood pressure, insomnia, impaired digestion and many more illnesses can come up, even a heart attack may happen. If you go to your medical people, they do their best, with whatever knowledge they have got and according to their capacity, they help you. They can help you only if you come within the jurisdiction of their treatment, however, your disease, as far as I can understand, does not come within the jurisdiction of a medical practitioner.

If you are suffering from anxiety, do not sleep for days and develop high blood pressure at the most he can give you tranquillizers. He knows it very well, not that the medical practitioners and scientists do not know. They do know, but what can they do? They can change the chemical processes of your body for a particular period of time by giving you tranquillizers, but they are not able to change the mental or emotional structure. Yoga can and does change the mental, emotional and the philosophical structure, and this is precisely the reason why the modern man has found a great relief in yoga.

Coming to a very important point, which does not relate very much to India or the developing nations, I may even use the word backward nations. The people in the west are very scared of drugs. Drugs means ‘medicine’. They are scared of drugs, because day in and day out important magazines in the western countries, eminent doctors and research scholars have been writing article after article telling them how these drugs can, in the course of time, give sickness which cannot be treated. The after effects of drugs frighten the people so much that they want an alternate way of treatment for their problems.

If they are suffering from insomnia, they do not want to take tranquillizers because they know that in the course of time it will damage the nervous system and affect the coronary behaviour. They want to avoid it, and therefore if you tell them, ’Do a little mantra japa, a little pranayama and yoga nidra, that will help you with the insomnia’, they practise it, experience it, and then they say to their fellow man, “’Hey, don’t take these drugs because you may develop some other problem in your body later. They may give you some sleep temporarily, for a day or two, but in the course of time these drugs will get into the blood vessels and become a part of your body. They can cause disease, tumours, cancer, cardiac trouble and so many other things’. So other people also take to these yogic methods. This is not so in India, because we are still primitive and backward.

Finally, whether you are a modern man or an old type of man, you want to discover meaning and value in your life. What is the meaning of your life? To live like a dog? So far as eating, sleeping, fear and sexual behaviour is concerned, there is no difference between us and animals, we are the same. When the modern man sees that he is exactly following the same tempo of life as animals have been following, he does not see any difference between himself and animals. So he develops guilt within himself. He says, ‘What am I doing? What am I doing? What am I doing?’ He feels guilty and due to this guilt he has abnormal psychological behaviour and personality problems.

But then yoga comes to him and gives him an approach to life, a meaning, a value, a new dimension, and then he knows, ‘Yes, that’s right. Now I can get up in the morning, concentrate, and after every 3, 4, or 5 months I can go to ashram of my Gurudev, spend some time there, and once a year I can do some anushthana or pooja’. He slowly learns that there is kundalini shakti, the possibility of samadhi and there is a possibility that he can get some sort of siddhi. This kind of meaning, value and philosophy given by yoga to the modern man has really come as a boon.

If yoga is withdrawn or ignored by people, then you can see the fun of it. I am sure people will kill themselves. You cannot understand this because you are too backward. You see, the moment you realize that life has no purpose, then why to live? Just take a pill and die. What is the use of living for another 30 or 40 years when there is no meaning of life, when there is no purpose, when there is no destination? Every day you are repeating the same program like a dog, a cat, a donkey or a pig.

This is precisely the reason why in Scandinavian countries young girls and boys of 16 and 18 years commit suicide. Their rate is the highest. In Scandinavian countries like Norway, Sweden, Denmark and Finland, the rate of suicide is the highest for no reason at all. They have no problems. They don’t have to worry about education, they don’t have to worry about employment, they don’t have to worry about anything. Everything is there: house, marriage, education, job, everything is there. If you want to give up the job and you want to join the university, everything is possible within five days. Still they commit suicide because they do not have and understand the purpose of life.

Yoga has opened the minds of the people to the possibility of spiritual evolution. What are you living? ‘I am practising yoga. I am going to awaken my kundalini’. What will you do? ‘Oh, I will become a swami and teach others. I will concentrate and develop my willpower and attain samadhi. The ideals before me are Buddha, Mahavir, Ramakrishna, and many other people’.

Now India is becoming modern, although it is not totally modern. I think about 60% is not modern. At this pace, in another fifty years we will be landing in total modernism. If we are very careful from now onwards, and if we teach our children and our people yoga, then our next generation will not face the same tragedy, the same crisis, the same problems as Europe and America are facing.

26 January 1982, Mysore, Tamil Nadu