Saturday, June 24, 2017

How Yoga Can Benefit You

06/10/2016 Chandigarh, India
(Below is a continuation of the post Yoga In Its Truest Sense)
Today, the knowledge of Yoga and its practices has been successful in bringing about a great transformation in the lives of thousands and thousands of people everywhere. Yoga is not just a theoretical principle, it is a practical and holistic approach that surely brings a positive transformation by regular sincere practice. One needs to practice it regularly. One of the sayings in Sanskrit is, “Yoga chitta-vritti nirodhaha” (Meaning: Yoga helps to arrest and remove the modulations or distortions of the mind). Now how can Yoga help to transform the mind? Through Abhyasa (regular practice) and Vairagya (cultivating dispassion). Both are necessary. Regular practice of Yoga helps to cleanse and uplift the inner self. In simpler words, I would say - Yoga brings harmony in our environment. It is the alignment of individual with the Universal Spirit.
If you observe your breath you will find there is a lot of unsteadiness in the breath. You may ask me how and why is this so. The breath has an impact on the mind, and the mind has an impact on the breath. Actually, the breath is the connecting link between the body and the mind. Every emotion has a corresponding rhythm in the breath, and an impact on the body as well. A quiver-free breath is the sign of enlightenment; it is a sign of a calm and pleasant state of mind. A disease-free body, a violence-free society, a confusion-free mind, a inhibition-free intellect, a trauma-free memory, a sorrow-free soul and a quiver-free breath is the impact that Yoga can make on your life.

Yoga makes your emotions softer and more peaceful, and you blossom in your emotions. It brings freedom in your expression and your thought patterns.

If you claim that you are a Yogi, then you should have an undying smile on your face. I would say, that is the sign of a Yogi. Yoga makes your emotions softer and more peaceful, and you blossom in your emotions. It brings freedom in your expression and your thought patterns. These are the real signs of Yoga. It is not just to do with the flexibility of the body. Of course, that too is a part of Yoga. The body becomes flexible, and the mind grows in faith and conviction. If all this happens, know that it is the gift of Yoga, and consider yourself as a Yogi.
You may have observed that a child from time of birth to three years of age is able to perform all the Yogasanas very comfortably. At that age, the child is able to do Pranayamas also, and does everything in a meditative state, even walking. If you carefully observe a child from the time it is three months old, till it grows to three years of age, I tell you, you need not search for another Yoga teacher anywhere. Children can teach you Yoga so perfectly. In fact, we all have grown up doing Yoga. When we stop doing Yoga, the mind stops blossoming and goes through different distortions. So to free the mind from negativity and distortion, we need to take the refuge of Yoga. To rid our society of social ills, we need to take the help of Yoga; be it addiction, intoxication, etc.
Many of our youth are struggling from the problems of addiction. I tell you, if they choose to take up the path of Yoga instead, a different intoxication and energy surges from within that uplifts and takes them to a higher place. I often tell the youth that once you come to me, I shall provide you with the highest intoxicant before which every other intoxicant will fail. Yoga is a kind of intoxication too, but it is one that uplifts you and elevates you to greater progress. It prevents your downfall into ignorance and negativity. It brings a wave of harmony and belongingness throughout society. Such is the greatness of Yoga.
I would once again say that Yoga does not simply mean doing physical exercises. Without the practices of Pranayama and meditation, the experience of Yoga is incomplete. Yoga has two approaches: Anuloma and Viloma. 
Anuloma means the practices of Yogasanas, Pranayama, meditation, Yama (restraint through self-control), Niyama (discipline), Dharana (to steady the mind’s attention for meditation) and Samadhi (state of non-duality and oneness with consciousness). Another approach is when you first get a glimpse of Samadhi and a slight experience of it, then having Dharana, meditation, Yama and Niyama follows naturally and effortlessly.
We have often seen that when people who have violent tendencies or engage in violence meditate for some time, then they drop those violent tendencies and do more Asanas and Pranayama.

Meditation enhances your intuition and innovative ability. It increases your energy level and makes you more intelligent.

Many people think of the eight limbs of Yoga as a step-wise process to go level by level. They think that one has to strive to become proficient in one level before ascending to the next. This is not really so. I would say that all these eight limbs or aspects of Yoga are woven together and happen simultaneously. When a child is conceived in the womb, then all its organs are formed together. It is not that first the feet are formed and then the arms take shape. No, it is not so. All the limbs and organs develop together. This is why we must take all these eight aspects or limbs of Yoga together at every step. Only then can we experience the fullness and totality of Yoga, and can bring about an extraordinary transformation and experience in our life.
I will take a few more minutes to tell you some more things. See, movement stretched is a dance. When you stretch your body in rhythm, then there is a dance, isn’t it? Sound stretched is music. If we stretch the 'aa-' sound, then it becomes musical. Mind stretched is meditation. Life stretched is celebration. When you think of your life in a limited way and only worry about few people like, 'Oh! What about my family?' or 'What about my things?', then life is not stretched. But when life is stretched and you include your family, friends, entire community and nation then life becomes a celebration. That is what service is all about. Do you get what I am saying?
See, when you do Yoga, just keep everything aside – whether it is your small problems, big issues, politics, social status, rich or poor, etc. Just keep everything aside. I would say, Yoga is one such area which should not be politicized or brought under the realm of politics. Do not drag something as universal as Yoga into caste, religion, race or geographical boundaries. Yoga is above religion and community, it is above social status. In the dimension of Yoga everyone is equal and the same: whether they are rich or poor, educated or uneducated. So can we not keep this one field (Yoga) away from every prejudice and influence?
Now, there are three golden rules for meditation. The first is to be Achaah – meaning that during meditation, have this feeling that 'I do not want or desire anything. For the next 10-15 minutes while I meditate, I do not want anything'. Can you all say this? After 10-15 minutes of meditation, you can surely get back to what you were doing. So this is the first rule for meditation.

We have often seen that when people who have violent tendencies or engage in violence  meditate for some time, then they drop those violent tendencies.

The second rule is to be Aprayatna – meaning that for the next 10-15 minutes, just think that 'I shall do nothing, not make any effort'. You need not chant, you need not concentrate or strain the mind to focus on something. You have to do absolutely nothing.
The third rule for meditation is Akinchana – that is to realize that 'I am nothing'. Drop everything, do not think 'I am very knowledgeable, I am a Yogi; I am a sinner, or I am a very noble person; I am very great, or I am very insignificant; I am very intelligent, or I am a third-rated fool', etc. Having either of the two Dharanas will be detrimental for Yoga and meditation. If we just bear these three principles in mind for the next 10-15 minutes for meditation, then we will be able to go deep into meditation. Will you all do this?
I feel tempted to tell you more about meditation. Meditation is the journey from movement to stillness; from sound to silence. Meditation enhances your intuition and innovative ability. It increases your energy level and makes you more intelligent. Got it? No one here would say that 'I do not want to be intelligent', or, 'I do not want to be intuitive or innovative', right? So, all these qualities blossom within you when you meditate. Even the latest scientific findings agree with these facts. Actually it is not the latest. One year ago, scientists in New York declared that if someone meditates for 20 minutes a day for eight weeks regularly, the very structure of the brain changes. The grey matter in the brain increases. This is really something phenomenal. We knew this and have experienced this since the ages. We have seen that by meditation, people’s mind-set changes. They feel very fresh at any time of the day. Now Science too has approved this.
It is said, “Vismayo Yoga Bhumika”. The preface for Yoga is Vismaya or wonderment. When we get into a state of wonder by looking at things around us, then that is when Yoga begins to unfold.

Thursday, June 22, 2017

Yoga In Its Truest Sense

06/10/2016 Chandigarh, India
I greet all of you including those who have joined me live from so many countries across the world on this occasion of the curtain raiser for the International Yoga Day 2016.
35 years ago, when I used to speak about Yoga to people in India and those outside India, people would think Yoga was something about practices performed by people who would applyBhasma (sacred ash) and had their hairs tied in matted locks. They would picture someone standing on one foot by the banks of the River Ganga and thought that Yoga was actually meant for such individuals only, and not for everyone. This was the feeling people had about Yoga in those days.
Today, I shall share the secret behind why I named this movement and organization as 'The Art of Living' 35 years ago. People then used to think of Yoga as something that was not meant for the common man and could only be learnt by few distinguished or qualified individuals. They would think that only someone who was a renunciate or a saint was allowed to practice Yoga. Yoga was not thought to be practiced and understood by a worldly person. This was a huge misconception in those times. This is why I chose to call this movement as The Art of Living – a unique skill or art to lead a happy and fulfilled life. When people heard about 'The Art of Living', they naturally became very curious to find out what it was all about, and many wanted to explore and go deeper into it. When a few people would come to meet me, I would guide them in practices of Yoga, Pranayama and meditation. As and when people started to get an experience of Yoga, Pranayama and meditation, their beliefs and notions about Yoga began to change. Thousands of youth joined this movement and became teachers for this across the world.
Many other spiritual and religious organizations across the world have also taken up this cause and contributed to it. Many teachers of Yoga have worked tirelessly through these past decades because of which the misconceptions surrounding Yoga and its practices have almost disappeared. This is a great achievement.

Yoga is that which can shake up and awaken the entire world. It also brings the union of the soul with God.

Last year, when the International Yoga Day (IYD) was officially declared, many programmes were held across the world, and close to one-third of the World’s population participated in these programmes in different countries with great enthusiasm. In earlier days, we had heard a saying that the sun would never set on the British Empire. But today, we can proudly declare that the Sun never sets on Yoga. We have seen this happening: from Japan to Argentina; from Norway to Australia and Cape Town in Africa, Yoga and Indian Spirituality are being honoured and appreciated everywhere. People everywhere are experiencing the multi-fold benefits of these practices.
When we think of Yoga, we understand it in a slightly limited way, as meaning only a few Asanas (specific body stretches or postures), like standing upside down on the head; or rigorously moving the stomach and abdomen. This alone is not what Yoga is. Yoga is that which can shake up and awaken the entire world. Yoga is that which unites the individual with the greater consciousness, the larger universal reality. Yoga brings the union of the soul with God. God is not seated somewhere high up in the heavens. God will not suddenly and miraculously appear before you one day, saying, “My dear one! I am very pleased with you. Ask for a boon you want and I shall grant it”. This happens only in TV serials. God is that all-pervading supreme energy that is hidden deep within us all. The art of awakening that divine energy is Yoga.
Our respected Prime Minister said that 'Yoga is the unique skill of going from Aham (MeBrahmasmi (I am the Brahman or God is within me) toVasudhaiva Kutumbakam (The world is one family)'.
This is really a very deep thought. Yoga does not mean having the realization of Aham Brahmasmi and then renouncing the world and staying in some far away cave in the Himalayas. Yoga is the journey of realizing that 'God resides within me (Aham Brahmasmi)' to Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam (we are all one). Realizing oneness with everyone and striving to wipe the tears and bring a smile on every face - this is Yoga in the truest sense. This is Vasudaiva Kutumbakam.

Realizing oneness with everyone and striving to wipe the tears and bring a smile on every face - this is Yoga in the truest sense. 

I remember a story from the Mahabharata. Lord Krishna was standing before a mirror and adorning himself. He took quite a long time to do so. So, while Lord Krishna was doing this, his charioteer who was waiting outside, grew restless as to what was taking the Lord so long. He finally entered Lord Krishna’s chamber and asked Him, “O Lord! Where do you wish to travel to today?”
Lord Krishna said to him, “I am planning to go meet Duryodhana today. Duryodhana is only impressed by outward looks and appearances. He does not yet have the ability to look within (himself or others). So I am taking care to dress myself finely and properly, since I have to go meet a prince”.
This is just like when we have to go for an important corporate meeting, we ensure to dress ourselves properly in a three-piece suit and comb our hair and attend to how we look. So in the same way, Lord Krishna prepared Himself for meeting Duryodhana.
His charioteer then said, “O Lord, why do you need to take so much trouble to go all the way to meet him? There can be no comparison between him and you. If you simply snap your fingers, Duryodhana will come fall at your feet in an instant. Then he will have to do whatever you ask him to. Why take so much trouble then to go meet him instead?” This incident happened at the time when Lord Krishna had decided to go as an ambassador of peace. Lord Krishna said, “My dear, darkness never travels towards the Light. It is Light that travels to the darkness to illumine it”.
When people would ask me, “Gurudev, why are you traveling to Iraq?” I told them, “Would people from Iraq be able to travel to India to learn and imbibe its spiritual wisdom? The kind of crisis and stressful situation that Iraq is in at present, it is we who should take this knowledge to the people there”.
India has been blessed with such profound Spiritual knowledge and traditions. Lord Krishna has shown by example that one must travel to help wherever there is a need and necessity to do so. Wherever there is a need for love and knowledge, it is we who will have to travel there and provide it. Such is the greatness of India’s spirituality.
And why is this so? It is because of our values of oneness and love, and considering the whole world as our own. The voice for Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam was first sounded here in India.

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

The Power Of The Mind

05/27/2016 Bangalore, India
(Below is a continuation of the post Stay Centered At All Times)

Monday, June 19, 2017

Stay Centered At All Times

05/27/2016 Bangalore, India

Saturday, June 17, 2017

Strength Lies In Unity

06/04/2016 Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
(Below is the  keynote address of Gurudev Sri Sri Ravi Shankar  at the Inaugural function of the Youth Solidarity Uprising Hindu Maha Yagna in Kuala Lumpur on the 4th June 2016)
Respected Gentlemen on stage, my dear brothers and sisters!
Only if we all are together as a society can we remove the defects in society. There are flaws in every society. In order to remove these flaws, we all should come together and reorganize society.
When I was coming here from the Airport, Ms. Kavitha said, “Gurudev, many people ask me, why should Hindus alone come together as a society, what about other societies? Should they also not do the same? And this question has been raised by Hindus themselves", she added.
In Hindu society, we always talk about broadmindedness. All religions are the same - is the notion of the Hindu Sanatana Dharma, and so this attitude is present in the Hindu society. Otherwise, we will have guilt feeling for having left out others. Since our notion is religious harmony, we feel it is not right to come together, leaving out others.
As Dr Subramanian rightly said, "We have broadmindedness and also deep faith in our Dharma".
It is also essential that there should not be conversion (from one religion to another). Our Minister, Mr. Ganapathi now said that about 7000 people are getting converted every year. This is because of lack of understanding of the spiritual meaning of our religion. People get converted because they do not realize the essence, the greatness, and the glory of our religion. It is our duty to let them know the greatness of our religion. We have plenty of Tamil texts of our faith, but people fail to understand them, and so they go in for conversion.
Another curse to our religion is the caste system. People say that caste distinctions are based on one’s profession and the family. Actually, the caste system came into existence in olden days, on the basis of profession and not on the basis of family. The scriptures say, “Janmana jayate sudrah samskarat dwij uchchte” (Those who study the scriptures are the ones who are of a higher caste).
So, let us drop these caste distinctions. By doing so, we will be united. We cannot dive deep into the society without unity. To bring growth and transition in the society, youth like you should come together. Youth alone can be primarily responsible for the progress of the world and of a Nation.
I am very happy to see a large number of young people gathered here today. You must let people know about the greatness of our religion. Rectify the defects and reveal the values. Further, in your personal life, practice yoga and meditation to find peace and relief. People of the world should be able to appreciate all the spiritual concepts. We have the skill to be useful to everyone. We must apply these skills to create a broad perspective of a One World Family.
I have heard that there are lots of issues here, like depression, and addiction to drugs and alcohol. Unity among youth is absolutely essential to solve all these issues faced by the community. I am giving you all a big vision to make the impossible possible. I have a habit of taking up challenges that seem impossible, and make them possible. If someone says, "Oh, this is impossible", I always encourage them to take the challenge. The sign of youth is this: meeting the challenges that are faced by the community, and making possible what is thought to be impossible.
As you all know, there are many who think we are such a divided community that unity is not possible. But there are many youth organizations here who have come up and said, “Yes, unity is possible”. So I congratulate you all. Unity to reform, unity for progress, unity for getting rid of all the ills in the society.
A strong community is not a threat to another community. Any community that becomes strong is a boon to other communities. This is what we need to realize. In the world scenario, every strong nation helps other nations. One strong nation is not a threat to another strong nation. One strong community is not a threat to another community. So sharing the strength, sharing the wisdom, sharing the wealth, sharing our hearts, this is what the aim of a community should be. Remove all the lack, all the imperfections, and all the issues that are blocking the community. Look out and be of service. If every youth takes up service, then the world will be a perfect place to live in, and the community will be much better.
With these words I congratulate you all once again for coming together to reform the community. Thank you.