The chief guest of today’s function is yoga. He is not visible, so you cannot see him. Yoga has come to inspire you. Indians were the guardians of yoga, but today yoga is the science of humanity. Not only Hindus, Buddhists, Jains, Shaivas, Vaishnavas, Shaktas; also Muslims, Christians, Parsees, Jews and those who do not believe in God, believe in yoga. Therefore, yoga is not a Hindu culture today, it is a world culture. People practise yoga outside India in a larger number, and the credit goes to Bihar School of Yoga who started exporting yoga to all countries. I carried the message of yoga all over the world. When I went abroad to the east and west, to Christian and Muslim countries, people welcomed the idea. They liked this philosophy and called me many times. They want to know about yoga, learn yoga and benefit from yoga.
Why do they want it? Why should they want yoga? Why should Americans practise yoga? They have a lot of money, a good home and everything. Why should Europeans practise yoga? They have wealth, children, they are rich and educated. They have very big hospitals and free medical aid. Still people want yoga, because it helps them to attain peace of mind, shanti, good health and concentration of mind, without which life is not very happy. Therefore, the yoga which I am talking about to you is not a religion. It is not a dharma, like Vaishnavism or Shaivism or Shaktism. It is a science which, if you practise every day, will give total happiness, physical health, mental concentration, emotional balance, peace and harmony in the family and at the same time you will be a very good citizen. This is the reason why yoga has become very popular.
There are some people who think that yoga is only meant for swamis and sannyasins who have renounced life and work, and that householders have nothing to do with yoga. This is a wrong idea. I come from Bihar, in Munger. I have a very small ashram where only a few people could be accommodated. In three months’ time, so many people came to the ashram that I had to build another ashram. Now there are hundreds of ashrams in different countries.
Why do people come to yoga? First of all, they come to practise asana. Why do they practise asana? They suffer from asthma, blood pressure, migraine, peptic ulcer, nervous depression, menstrual problems, retroverted uterus, hysteria, epilepsy, just to name a few diseases. They practise some asana and pranayama and they get better. In the last 20 years or so, we have trained one hundred thousand teachers, one lakh teachers, in different countries, because there is so much need. People want to practise yoga, but they did not know what to do. Yoga should be learnt from a teacher who has some experience. We needed yoga teachers, so we started teaching in Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Gujarat, Kashmir, UP and Nepal. Yoga schools were established throughout Europe including Czechoslovakia, Romania, Poland, Bulgaria, Colombia, Brazil, Chile, Argentine, Indonesia, Vietnam, Bali, Japan. Everywhere there are hundreds of yoga schools today who are treating those diseases where medical science has failed.
There were many instances where even I was surprised. Migraine is a headache When the moment the sun rises, you get a headache; the sun goes down, the headache ends. If you practise neti, pranayama and kunjal kriya, you never get migraine. Similarly, in diseases like asthma, peptic ulcer, diabetes, blood pressure, insomnia and diseases of the heart, yoga is not one of the best, but THE best system. Therefore, people all around the world have accepted yoga.
Yoga has one very important branch known as dhyana yoga which is necessary for those who have no peace of mind, no shanti, who have depression, no concentration of mind and who cannot concentrate even on their ishta devata. You go to a temple, you do your pooja, but where is your mind? You may have bhakti, but you have no ekagrata, no concentration of mind. If you have no concentration of mind, how can you meditate on God? If a man does not know how to aim the gun he cannot shoot the bird because he does not have one-pointed aim. Similarly, those who worship God should have the knowledge of yoga.
You cannot catch the mind for it is more subtle than vayu, air. In order to control the mind, there is a wonderful system called pranayama. By the practice of pranayama, you can catch the mind. If your mind is restless, not one-pointed, if you cannot concentrate on God even for one second, then before your pooja or your worship and chanting your stotras you should sit down in an asana and practise ten minutes of pranayama. After the practice of pranayama, if you sit for dhyana or pooja, you will feel that God is very close to you. You will not feel that God is only in the murti, statue, or that God is only a vigraha, image. You will feel that he is within you. That feeling of God within you, in the inner chamber of your heart, is possible only if you adopt yoga as your daily practice.
Yoga should not be learnt from the books. It should be practised with the help of an experienced teacher. Asana, pranayama and even mantra should only be practised when you are taught by an experienced person.
I want to request all of you that in Madurai, this city of temples which has a great tradition and where people are very devotional, full of bhakti and innocence, yoga training must be organized which will be a direct service to the nation. Bharata Mata, our nation, needs different minds and different types of citizen. You are devoted and have bhakti, shraddha and nishtha, but it is necessary that yoga must come to your home. You teach your children and family members and keep them healthy, free from disease and mental problems.
If at any time you happen to come to Bihar, do come to the ashram. Hindus, Muslims, Christians, Buddhists, Parsees, Jews, Communists and agnostics, all come to the ashram. It is the only ashram in India which is the meeting place of all dharmas, where all religions meet without any difficulties, because yoga is the mother. Yoga is their Mata Janani. Just as a mother gives milk to her children and they become strong, in the same way yoga does not see any difference between a man and a woman, between a Brahmin or vaishya, shudra or kshatriya, between any religion. Those who come to practise yoga, whosoever they are, get the best possible benefits.
I am sorry that I cannot speak in Tamil. I have not spoken Tamil for the last thirty two years. When I was in Sivananda Ashram in Rishikesh, I could speak Tamil in such a way that even South Indians used to call me a South Indian. Now I feel shy, but if I stay for twenty or thirty days I can deliver a lecture in Tamil, because in 1950 I did.
4 February 1982, Address to Jaycees (Junior Chamber of Commerce), Madurai, Tamil Nadu