Paths of Yoga

Swami Satyananda Saraswati

There are six branches of yoga and each of them has many other branches. The techniques of yoga are innumerable and it is hatha yoga which is considered as a very physical yoga. That is not completely true because in hatha yoga, which certainly contains physical techniques, there are mental exercises also. It is said that yoga is for beauty and flexibility. Well, that is not a lie, it does help you to obtain beauty and flexibility of the physical body; through the techniques you obtain good health: physical health, mental health, spirituality.

When you practise some physical or mental techniques, the first point is it depends on how you practise them. Of course, when you have no physical or mental sickness, your body will certainly look healthy. When your mind is clear and balanced, certainly you will get more tranquillity and clarity of mind.

That means the beauty is inside, it is projected through the physical body. It is not that through the practices of yoga, the shape of your body changes. It is the mind that changes, the mind clears. When you relax, you look completely different to when you are full of nervousness and anxiety. These are the different things which bring beauty when you practise the techniques of yoga.

The rules and regulations, the discipline, the truthfulness, the orderliness, the cleanliness, always remembering the goal, being in a constant state of awareness, etc. this reverberation is not only outside – it is inside, a mental reverberation, sincerity. These comprise the different techniques of yoga, and there are certain ways in which to practise them. A teacher or master is necessary for proper guidance. People consider hatha yoga as a very low yoga, a very physical yoga. But this is not true. Certainly there are many physical exercises in hatha yoga, but through physical exercises you also obtain spiritual benefits. It is possible that you may obtain the ultimate goal through the practices of hatha yoga also.

I am not asking you to practise everything. You may learn everything, but practise those practices which are convenient and beneficial for you. If you practise for special benefits, if you have some complaint or disease, some asana, some pranayama, balancing of our internal energies through the medium of our breath, some mental relaxation, some form of concentration, you will be cured.

I am using the word ‘curing’. I am not advocating any medicine or the use of herbs or injections, nothing outside, just a little of some yogic techniques, whether physical or mental. The hatha yoga techniques, whether physical or mental, are such a wonderful yoga which you can practise in any kind of life. Many times people misunderstand and think that yoga means to realize, or not to live a common life, not to marry, or not to eat something, so many foolish things people think which are not true. Through hatha yoga it is possible to reach the ultimate goal.

Karma yoga

Karma literally means action. It also means samskara. Samskaras are those things which remain in our mind. Everything that happens, those things we are thinking of, whether inside or outside, create an influence in our mind. Our internal consciousness, which is the subconscious or unconscious, registers these influences as impressions, and the main point is that we do not notice them. We cannot know them. If anything is happening, even when you are listening to me, it is impressing your mind and going deep into your consciousness. It is like a recording. Imagine a tape recorder, recording my voice, or any other voice, in the same way, your mind and even my mind is recording, all that goes on, twenty four hours a day.

When a good thing is happening, there is a good influence in the mind; when a bad thing is happening, there is a bad influence in the mind. When you are thinking or doing good things, you have a good influence in your mind. When you are thinking or doing bad things there is a bad influence in your mind. That means psychology. These things are registered in our dreams, our thoughts, our visions. It is projected as happiness, unhappiness, a sickness, or an illness. That is how it comes. You are visualizing all the time, but the problem is without taking any notice, without any awareness of these influences or impressions going in. Therefore, they are making another impression in your mind. That is called samskara, karma, work.

When you say karma yoga it means action without expectation and with perfection. When we do anything, any kind of action, work, service or anything like that, not expecting any results, any fruits or benefits for ourself, that is karma yoga. In any kind of action, whether good action, whether mental action, physical action or a spiritual action, there should be no selfishness with it.

There is always expectation. The mind is always expecting; it is never that the mind is not expecting. However, the expectation also has three qualities as nature has the three qualities of rajas, tamas and sattwa.

When there is a higher kind of expectation, that is karma yoga. This expectation should be for no one. Expecting any results does not mean that when you are working, whether in the office, at school, in your home, or anywhere, you should not receive your payment or salary, not at all. It means that you should not expect. Certainly you will get the benefits as you are helping others, serving, working. You will receive the benefits, but what I am trying to tell you is, do not expect the benefits.

Not expecting the benefits is not expecting for yourself or for another person. This non-expectation ultimately helps you to make progress spiritually. When you keep no object in your mind of receiving, of giving for someone, then your mind becomes pure.

How is this perfection to be achieved? It requires the purity of love, doubtlessness, devotion, complete surrender, complete respect for whatever you do, for whatever you want. It is said that it is through the power of love that you can do anything possible which is not possible. It is through the power of doubtless devotion that you can cross the ocean. It is through the power of surrender that you can climb the highest mountain. Practically it is true, but only listening does not help, you have to practise.

I am not saying that you have to obtain love, devotion or surrender. Everyone of us has these qualities. We have the quality of devotion, we have the quality of surrender, but we do not know how to utilize them properly. That is what we need to learn. And we learn while serving and helping others and not expecting anything. Then the love and devotion becomes doubtless, gradually, of course. You will come to learn how you can utilize your love, devotion, surrender, more and more.

When you are doing anything anywhere, you have to surrender it. When you have devotion for your work, you become aware of what you are doing. You will learn how to do things without being taught. When you have surrender and serve humanity with devotion, you become aware of people’s thinking, reasons, feelings and that is how you come to know humanity. That is how you can know others’ psychology and how you can help them.

It is not magic through which we can help others; there is the greater magician that we have inside which costs no money, for which we need waste no time. We can help others, we can cure others, we can make others satisfied, we can make others tranquil. Our own magician, which we have got, is our own devotion and surrender. When we do all with devotion and surrender there is no duality. There is no hatred, no jealousy, no anger. Of course, it is very easy to say but it is easy to practise also if you are very eager. Many people tell me, ‘Swamiji, you are speaking so nicely, but it is very difficult to pronounce this word ‘practice.’ I tell them, ‘No, it is rather difficult to pronounce this word, but easy to practise.’ Easy to practise for those who are really eager to help. Help another person, and through that you are helping yourself.

This helping others is helping yourself indirectly towards your spiritual progress. This is how you become aware of your samskaras, of what is there in your subconscious mind. If you can know others’ psychology, if you can know the inner side of others, you can know yours also. Then you can know what is the least and what is the most in you. What is wrong in you, you can correct. I am not saying that you can change your samskaras, I am not saying that you can remove your samskaras, but I am saying that you will know how to create them properly and convert them into a direction.

If you are feeling very angry, you just convert it into devotion, that will remodel it. Anger seems so terrible to others, and even to you, for later on you feel guilty and have such a bad reaction because of it and therefore you suffer over it. If you just convert it into devotion and devotion to others, you will feel better, you will be happy, and others will be happy. This is a kind of medicine through which you can cure others’ sickness, not only psychological, even physical. Of course, the physical sicknesses are mainly related to the mind and when the mind feels happy you can be sure that automatically the physical sicknesses will go away.

Therefore, to realize God you need to surrender yourself, you need to devote yourself completely. This is how while surrendering with devotion and serving others, you see God. What is God? God is everywhere, we are part of God. Everything is part of God. God means universal consciousness.

While awakening our little psychosis, while getting rid of this limitation we become unlimited. That means we emerge into this super-consciousness, into this universal consciousness and then we have universal perception. That is called God in religious language. For those who really know, it does not specifically refer to God, Jesus Christ, Mohammed, Rama or Krishna because for them it is all one and the same, just a different name.

In books it is said that all are the same, but still people keep on thinking that I belong to this religion, I pray to this God or that God. Well, I do not say that it is bad, but still people think he is higher, he is lower, Mohammed is higher, Christ is lower. Another one will say my God is higher. So why read? If it does not increase your knowledge, it is no use reading. You should read, but at the same time, if you practise some yoga techniques you will understand your religion better. You will understand what exactly religion is, because up to now religion is not explained. You will be able to explain it to yourself.

Karma yoga is such a wonderful yoga. It is an easy yoga which anyone can practise because everyone is doing action, whether internal action or external action. Even our brains and our nervous systems are acting. We are not only acting from outside, writing, working, digging or washing, they are external actions. Interior actions are thinking, the blood is flowing, the glands are working. It is through all kinds of action that we become aware of and realize this reality, this universal conscious, and obtain universal perception.

Anyone can practise karma yoga anywhere in any kind of life. There is obviously no need of renunciation, there is no need of giving up something and accepting something. It is only training the mind in a certain way. It is only mental renunciation and you can do mental renunciation while being a professor, a teacher, a photographer and so many other things.

Bhakti yoga

Bhakti means devotion. Bhakti yoga is the yoga of devotion. It is also considered as religious yoga. In hatha yoga, there is a principal branch known as japa yoga. Japa means repetition of mantra. Mantras are the sacred words or syllables which have good vibrations.

Everything that is existing has vibration, whether good or bad. It is in the voices and sound. Mantras are powerful, they have good vibrations because these words were heard by the ancient rishis and munis during deep states of meditation. There are certain syllables and words belonging to our personality which are called mantras. These specific words and letters have such a positive vibration, that when we repeat them it gives us a good vibration.

The repetition of mantra can be repetition of the name of a god also, but it is not the same. The name of a god and mantra are not the same. Both of them are powerful, but here I am specifically talking about individual mantras. The individual mantras are according to the different personalities. There are different personalities, and for each of them there is a different mantra, though there are also collective mantras.

These individual mantras are secret and when you receive a mantra and repeat it, it produces a vibration, not only in your physical body, but in your whole being. It tranquillizes your mind, it calms down your mind while you continuously repeat it. When you sing the collective mantras together, you enter in such a kind of trance, where you can think what you want to think, you can reject what you do not like to think, you can visualize the things you want to visualize and reject the visions which you do not want. This means control of the mind – you drive the mind, the mind is not driving you.

Normally the mind is functioning automatically, thinking and thinking all the time. It keeps thinking even if you do not want to think. While repeating the mantra, usually you obtain the state where you can think about only the things you would like to think about. You can visualize only those things which you would like to visualize. That is why it is considered as a religious yoga, because all religious people repeat their god’s name and they try to visualize the photo or statue of their god or their guru.

This devotion is never bad; it is always good, but through the practice of mantra, even if you have no devotion, even if you have no faith in something, it will bring real faith, real devotion, not blind faith. That means it will bring correct understanding. It will give you a positive and true idea of things; it will help you to study easily and understand easily.

March 1980