Celebrated as a gift of life
There is no knowing when yoga really began. There is a solid history going back for 15,000 years but no one really knows about the people who lived before then let alone what they thought and how they lived.
What is clear is that yoga began either in India as we know it today or in very close proximity, and we must remember that India’s borders have shrunk. 200 years ago Afghanistan, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and part of Burma existed within the geographic borders of India.
Yoga is not so much a teaching or an activity, it is a state of being where one exists in perpetual harmony and consciousness with life. But today for convenience we call yoga as the systematic physical and mental exercises that can be employed to reach that state of unity with life.
Those first Yogis and Yogini’s (men and women) to whom yoga was revealed were so overjoyed that they had to share it with other people. But remember the state of unity itself cannot be shared, so what they shared were the tools or the technology that can be used to achieve unity in life.
Yoga recognises that we are all part of nature, but we as human beings have the capacity to either manipulate nature or to co-create. Modern civilisation has more to do with manipulating nature and this is happening without any regard for the continuity of nature. In other words, because we have the power to break things, we are breaking things and we have set ourselves on a path towards extinction.
As human beings we must recognise that we are bound this world, to this planet and it is only on this planet that is powered by the sun that we have the means to experience life.
If we look at life on earth, it is abundant yet there is very little sickness in nature, sicknesses something that mostly applies to us. Some of the world’s more famous contemporary yogis were very ill as children, for instance BKS Iyengar was said to be very sickly, but his practice of what we refer to as Hatha Yoga completely restored his health and he lived a long and productive life.
Yoga at odds with modern civilisation
Yoga represents an ideal of what is to be fully human and fully responsible human beings able to live in harmony with nature. But modern civilisation is racing head long into destruction and the extinction of life on earth. So yoga is against this destruction and foolishness because it doesn’t serve any purpose.
A great deal of modern technology while it gives us some comfort and convenience is destroying life, and that in part is because of how we see ourselves. Instead of identifying ourselves as being part of nature, we have taken the opinion that we are superior to nature and therefore we have a right to dominate.
Compounding this perception is the fact that we identify ourselves as being our bodies and minds. In other words our identity is associated with our body and mind. But from the perspective of yoga and the reality of existence, we are neither the body nor the mind.
If we look analytically at our bodies, we can see that we eat the food that comes from the topsoil of the earth. Plants absorb the nutrients from the soil and we plants. Many people prefer to eat the meat from other animals, but those animals are created in the same way. They eat the vegetation which is converted into the animal that they are. Likewise the food that we eat is converted into new cells or body parts. Now our cells have a very short lifespan and in fact most cells in our bodies are being replaced within the span of two years.
Therefore if you and I were actually our bodies, the death of each and every cell means that a part of us would die. But that does not happen, we do not suffer in any way or experience any sense of loss when the cells that make up our body parts die and get replaced, and we don’t have to teach those new cells how to do their job.
This human body that we all have is a miracle of creation and the most sophisticated piece of technology that exists on this planet. If we give it the correct nutrition, exercise, rest and recreation it is completely self-sustaining and takes care of itself so that we can enjoy a lifespan of 80 to 100 years and sometimes more.
Now let’s think about our minds
It is known that we pick up some information on the womb before birth such as the rudiments of language, but essentially we come into the world as a potential rather than an identity. In other words, our mind is not preprogrammed so we don’t identify ourselves as citizens of any country or belonging to any belief system or having any particular preference for anything. We simply enter into life in a similar way to a brand-new computer that has not been programmed.
The mind that you are perceiving with right now is in fact an accumulation of ideas that is filtering this information against the background of all your knowledge and beliefs. Our body is an accumulation of all the food that we have ever eaten and our minds are accumulations of all the impressions from education and life experience.
One of the core teachings of yoga is that we are essentially spiritual beings and although we have a body and the mind, there are only two directions in life. There is the outward direction which is the world around us and we have an inward direction that we perceive through contemplation and meditation.
Yoga as a technology
As I have explained, the word yoga is used to reference the path toward that ultimate unity with life which is the true meaning of the word yoga. Therefore yoga is like a roadmap that contains specific exercises to improve the health and fitness of the body and mind, but it is also a system for navigating our inner space.
This may sound complicated is not. The path of yoga is so simple that people dismiss it without even trying because all that is required is the complete relaxation of body and mind while remaining awake and alert.
It really it’s about complete relaxation while maintaining alertness that opens the windows of perception. It is only very recently that modern science discovered the atomic particle (atom) and that is really only in the past 50 years that science has been able to analyse component parts of an atom.
Yet it is well documented that yogis had already looked at the atom more than 2000 years ago. In fact while Europeans were still living in caves as hunter gatherers, the yogic scientists had mapped the earth, measured its circumference, had accurate knowledge of all the stars in the sky including distances which have only been verified by Europeans in the past 300 years.
The science of yoga understood that humanity was bound to the earth and existed in a symbiotic relationship with all other life. Therefore they asked the question how can we best serve humanity?
Armed with the knowledge that we are bound to this earth and our good health and continued survival was dependent on the health and well-being of the planet, they helped to devise a way of living, a lifestyle that was harmonious for the welfare of every human being and for all life on this planet.
They understood that not everyone was particularly interested in practising yoga even though it was clear that the people who practised yoga were much happier than the average person.
In the old tradition of yoga, practitioners would retreat to the mountains to attend to their spiritual practices over the heat of the summer and then in the wintertime they would travel across the subcontinent (of India) sharing their knowledge and helping the people to improve the quality of their lives as well as their understanding of life.
This system of living is referred to as Sanatana Dharma that the English renamed as Hinduism. Sanatana Dharma is a way of living in accord with nature and celebrating life. It is a way of living that is sustainable and compatible with long-term survival of our species and all the other species on Earth.
In the Western world it has been something of a fringe pastime to communicate with nature spirits that have sometimes been called fairies or elves. But there is definitely a force with the nature that inspires everything to grow and flourish that perhaps we can call the spirit of life.
This spirit of life that some people call also God is a creative principal that causes the trees to grow, the birds to sing as well as the growing of our own bodies. But for many people, the growing of our own bodies is distorted by the way we think and by our excommunication from the spirit of life.
In other words, we are often our own worst enemies and we have created a nightmarish civilisation. But within that we still have the freedom to turn inwards and to know life.
This knowledge of yoga, although it is not well understood and is sometimes misapplied has a grand history and in 2014 the government of India put forward a motion to the United Nations to recognise the importance of yoga by signifying an international day of yoga. This resolution was passed with the highest ever number of ‘yes’ votes of any voting process at the United Nations. The date for the international day of yoga to be celebrated as an annual event is June 21st.
What we call as yoga is a technology for human well-being and the only solution to the crisis that we find ourselves in today. Even if everyone in the world was to sit down and practice yoga, and may not be enough to avert our doomsday. But everyone who was practising some form of yoga who does find themselves in a time of crisis will at least know their true humanity and have a better chance of surviving any holocaust.