In the first part of the series, Acharya Das discusses the topic of yoga. Rather than just the limited understanding as being a system of physical postures and breathing, Yoga is best understood as a broader spiritual system, of spiritual endeavor aimed at self-realization and God-realization. He clears up common misconceptions of what yoga is, describes the ultimate goal of yoga, and explains the process by which the goal of yoga can be achieved.

Acharya Das also shares that the real message of yoga is a message of hope, self-discovery, and boundless joy. He will explain the yoga system of learning from a qualified teacher and reveal why it’s extremely beneficial for a sincere seeker of truth to seek out an authentic spiritual teacher to guide them on the gradual and progressive journey towards transcendence.

These verses from a yogic text were quoted:

Bhāgavata Purāṇa 7.13.28-30

In this way the conditioned soul living within the body forgets his self-interest because he identifies himself with the body. Because the body is material, his natural tendency is to be attracted by the varieties of the material world. Thus the living entity suffers the miseries of material existence.

Just as a deer, because of ignorance, cannot see the water within a well covered by grass, but runs after water elsewhere, the living entity covered by the material body does not see the happiness within himself, but runs after happiness in the material world.

The living entity tries to achieve happiness and rid himself of the causes of distress, but because the various bodies of the living entities are under the full control of material nature, all his plans in different bodies, one after another, are ultimately baffled.

Do not stay in illusion; go to the eternal reality. Do not stay in darkness; go to the light. Do not suffer death; become immortal!  –  Bṛhad-āraṇyaka Upaniṣad 1.3.28

Namaste.  So thank you very much to people that came along and to our live in audience for tuning in. This series we’re going to be speaking about yoga, spirituality, enlightenment and God—what that all means.  Before speaking I would like to offer my humble respects to my spiritual masters in our spiritual lineage and to the Supreme.

Nama om Vishnu padaya Krishna presthaya bhutale srimate Siddhaswarupananda Paramahamsa iti namine

Namaste Sarasvati devi gaura vani pracarine nirvisesa sunyavadi pascatya desa tarine

Bhaja Sri Krishna Chaitanya Prabhu Nityananda Sri Advaita Gadadhar Sri Vas adi Gaur bhatavrndam

He Krishna karuna sindhu dina bandho jagat pate gopesa gopika-kanta  radha kanta namo stu te

So in speaking about these topics, I will be attempting to present to you an authentic Vedic perspective on these subjects.  The knowledge which I will attempt to share is from a very broad and profound Vedic perspective.  It is not a perspective from any one specific school of thought although some people may want to frame it that way. This is the most ancient and authentic message of the Vedas.

So first in relation to understanding yoga, what does this word mean and there’s kind of 3 ways in which the word yoga is understood in the word today. And the most commonly applied meaning of this word is a system of physical postures but the reality is that this is not really a very full understanding at all of what is the meaning of yoga.  Philosophically and in the academe and stuff, people speak of yoga as one of those what’s called the six darshans. Or the 6 systems of philosophy that were associated with the Vedas so, like nyaya, sankhya yoga etc .Vedanta being one of them also. But I think there is also an appreciation of the term yoga in relation to a broader spiritual system or a system of spiritual realization which is aimed at both self-realization and God-realization. But the reality is that ultimately the word actually speaks to a state of consciousness, a state of spiritual existence that is actually the goal of human life, what human life is meant for.  This is the understanding that is promoted within the Vedas.  And so the word yoga has a root although some people come up with all kinds of theories these days and everybody wants to present something different and trippy.

The ancient appreciation is that the word yoga refers to a union.  It actually refers to a union.  People want to promote the idea sometimes it means some harmony between mind, body and spirit.  But the reality is that the union that is referred to speaks to a union of the atma or the self, my spiritual existence, who I am, me , the atma and the paramatma, the supreme self.  Now that is understood and appreciated by different people in different ways but that’s fundamentally what it speaks to.

The path of yoga as a broad path that is practiced in this world is extremely compassionate and filled with care.  The message is compassionate and filled with care.  It is presented within the Vedas in a variety of ways where you will see that different people in different states of consciousness and  people that have different outlooks on life will be able to adopt an aspect of the broader system of yoga for their spiritual betterment. Now what we’re speaking about of course with that is the idea, the understanding of a very gradual and progressive journey towards transcendence. This gradual and progressive journey is not marked by like really hard lines.  When this understanding, this very broad and encompassing understanding of yoga is not really fully embraced and appreciated then we may see people want to divide themselves into groups and say for instance, “Oh I’m a hatha yogi” or” I’m a jnana yogi.” or I’m a bhakti yogi.” And in making these statements they are not truly reflective of what the real yoga system is actually about.

When people adopt this type of terminology it’s almost like they are considering something higher and something lower and being possessed of material consciousness we may seek somehow to elevate ourselves by speaking highly of ourselves or to lower somebody else’s status in life by assigning sort of like a label to them.  And so people tussle and struggle within their own minds and in dealing with others with this idea or misapplication of this idea of higher and lower.  So while it is true that we may look at these different applications of yoga as like a ladder, we should not really look at them as being you know associated with higher and lower, that is not helpful for any individual to do that.  It’s kind of like as the sun rises you can go from a condition of pitch blackness prior to the sun approaching the horizon when there is no moon.  Pitch darkness to the sun sitting on the horizon and all its radiance and glory and everything being bright and clear and visible with color and everything all around us.  And you cannot say that as the sun is rising that there are different clear stages.  We can see that it is a gradual transition and in a similar way the different processes of yoga which are often referred to as paths of yoga that are presented in the Vedas from the best perspective should not be seen as very hard,  you know, boxes that we sort of lump people into.  That the different processes of yoga were promoted so that people in different situations in life, in different consciousness, etc. would have the opportunity, that we would all equally have the opportunity for full spiritual realization.

So earlier I just mentioned some of the different types of yoga. I used the word jnana.  Jnana refers to the pursuit of knowledge, of spiritual knowledge and it was adopted by certain types of people as a way to become completely immersed in a yoga process that brought about or resulted in if they were fortunate spiritual realization.  Part of that path but more defined was also sankhya yoga.  Sankya yoga was very much associated with the early parts of what I would refer to as astanga yoga.  Astanga yoga was for the purpose, it was the eight-fold path of yoga where one gradually came to a position of spiritual realization. But Sankhya specifically deals with the analytical study of both spirit and matter,  and an attempt to have a profound and deep understanding  and realization of my true spiritual existence and the nature of the world and my connection with it. Karma yoga and there’s a series that I spoke about earlier on this subject, deals with action, where a person learns to act in such a way that their life and the way that they’re living brings them to the platform of spiritual realization and it has to do with the reawakening of the mood of serving where one makes an offering of their life, all their activities in their life, everything to the Supreme.

A term that is often used because it was popularized by Vivekananda is raja yoga.  Raja yoga is basically speaking about what is more accurately described as astanga yoga.  This astanga yoga were 8 limbs of a complete yoga system that brings one to the highest state of transcendental understanding and then the other frequently mentioned and practiced and known about is this world is this system of bhakti yoga which is this path of devotion, of spiritual devotion.

When we talk about yoga, we are encouraged to understand that it is not just an intellectual or philosophical or even physical pursuit or a practice like when a person you know tries to acquire a skill or some activity that they add to their life.  But rather the practice of yoga is best understood as being a spiritual path, meaning that it is a life choice, it is a life style.  When a person enters onto a true yoga path it becomes part of their entire life, and everything that they are doing, and how they’re living, their motivations, their focus, their directions.  So, you know, this is different than just, “Okay, I’m gonna do my yoga for a while.”  And you’re gonna do your yoga and then you get back to your life and everything else.  You know, the system of yoga speaks about a transformation of consciousness, of total immersion and absorption.  So the fundamental understandings of yoga are: one that I am spiritual being temporarily residing within this body.  With that comes an understanding that if I live in a false identity meaning I’m claiming, “I’m male. “ “’I’m female,” and deeply absorbed in that idea,  I’m a particular racial extraction or I have a certain desire or orientation or whatever when I live in a state of  falsely identifying with the body or anything like this or my mind, , it will always result in distress, pain and unhappiness.  In relation to this world, and we’re just dealing with things very briefly here I should see in my yoga practice that this world is both temporary and it is not my home.  If I try to make this my home and something that’s permanently I’m gonna permanently be connected with, what I am doing is seeking perfection in that which is imperfect.  And we’re really discouraged from doing this in the yoga process. I should see that I am actually a transient.  I’m moving through this body. I am moving through this world and I am a transient and I should be more concerned about my eternal well-being rather than my temporary situation.  Of course, I should pay attention but that should not be the total focus of everything. So, you know just to clarify this understanding. I’ll just read a couple of quotes from the Bhagavat Purana which is one of the amazing spiritual texts in the Vedas. It speaks about the yoga process

“In this way the conditioned soul”  conditioned soul refers to when the living being becomes overwhelmed  with bodily identity and is living in that state. “In this way the conditioned soul living within the body forgets his self-interest because he identifies himself with the body and because the body is material the natural tendency is to be attracted by the varieties that exist in the material world thus the living being suffers the miseries of material existence just as a deer because of ignorance cannot see the water within a well which is covered by grass but runs after the water elsewhere.  The living entity covered by the material body does not see the happiness within himself but runs after happiness in the material world.”

Is it far-out?  This is really amazing. “The living entity tries to achieve happiness and rid himself of the cause of distress but because of the various bodies of the living entities, the various bodies of the living entities, and under the full control of material nature all his plans in different bodies one after another are ultimately baffled…our plans for a perfect home, our plans for a perfect love, our plan for perfect happiness, all the plans that we have and try to execute ultimately become baffled.  So there is this fundamental formula that we see in the yoga system, we see it in Buddhism and different dharmic spiritual paths and practices.  It’s basically is that ignorance equals pain.  If I’m ignorant of spiritual truth and reality, if I am accepting something that’s unreal as real, I will suffer because of that.


So speaking to this point from the yoga sutra of Patanjali, the second chapter or pada, fifth verse, he describes: “Ignorance consists that of considering that which is temporary as eternal, the impure as being pure and misery as being happiness and the non-self, that is the body or the mind, as being the real self.  So I’m not gonna speak about this or expound on it.  We’re just brushing through it.  Another very important part of the yoga system has to do with becoming the master of the mind.  This is very central to yoga.  We’re not talking about an artificial imposition like I’m gonna enter into a wrestling match with my mind to see who comes out on top.  We’re talking of a spiritual process that brings about change rather than being enslaved and victimized by our minds we end up becoming masters of our mind.  In the Bhagavad Gita in the sixth chapter there is this sixth verse or sloka, it states:  “For him who has conquered the mind, the mind is the best of friends but for one who has failed to do so, his mind will remain the greatest enemy.”  I mean this is just a concept that doesn’t exist within materialistic civilization that pervades the world now.  In fact people think by giving free rein to the mind they will find happiness.  In the yoga perspective that is absolutely untrue.  So there is this understanding and appreciation that in reality the human form of life is a great gift.  It is considered the greatest of gifts because it provides a spiritual opportunity, an opportunity for actually, to attain perfect happiness.  But if we are to…you know, pursue this path of yoga there is another teaching within the yoga system that is important, and that has to do with the need for an authentic spiritual guide, a true master of that which is spiritual, the spiritual knowledge and undertaking, what is called guru.  But in order or our responsibilities as aspirants on this path is to seek out such a guide, but one must learn what are the qualifications of such a person, so that we will not be misled by someone posing as a spiritual guide but who is truly not qualified and another part of this and again I would just like to state we’re moving over these things quite quickly, we’re not delving into them at any length.

Another important consideration when one looks for a spiritual guide, guru, is to not only consider their personal qualification but also to appreciate the importance of what’s called sampradaya which has to do with spiritual lineage.  This was like a really important point for people that are undertaking this pursuit of yoga or anyone that’s involved in most of the Eastern spiritual paths or religions, the understanding of the necessity of a spiritual master was like it was considered pivotal.   Without one, one would be considered to be like a ship, a sailing ship without a rudder.  A ship without a rudder means that the ship is simply being moved by wind and by sea currents.  If you’re on the ship you are simply at the mercy of the wind and the currents.  The spiritual master was likened to a rudder to make it so that the ship which is carrying us through this journey of life and our experience could be guided and directed.  So in speaking of yoga it is important that we come to embrace the real message of what yoga speaks to and is about.  Yoga or the message of yoga is a message of great hope.  It is a message about self-discovery, discovery of who we actually really are, it is a message of light.  It is a message of boundless joy that which we seek. And it is a message about a limitless ocean of spiritual love.  So in closing out today  I‘d just like to finish with one amazing mantra from the Brhadaranyaka Upanishad,  where and many people are familiar with this you know, Asato maa  sad gamaya. This mantra which begin with this line, “Do not stay in the illusion.  Go towards to the eternal reality.  Do not stay in darkness go to the light.”jyotira gamay “Do not suffer death, become immortal.”  This is the motivation, this is the offering what that means we will try to discover as we deal with the other parts of this talk   Thank you very much for being with us today. Please join us, we are just going to have a brief kirtan meditation.  We will be chanting the mantra  Gopala Govinda Rama Madana Mohana   and  hopefully it will show up at the bottom of the screen.   Thank you.