We have bigger houses but smaller families;
More conveniences, but less time;
We have more degrees, but less sense;
More knowledge, but less judgement;
More experts, but more problems;
More medicines, but less healthiness;
We’ve been all the way to the moon and back,
But have trouble crossing the street to meet the new neighbor.
We built more computers to hold more
information to produce more copies than ever,
but have less communication;
We have become long on quantity,
but short on quality.
These are times of fast foods
But slow digestion;
Tall man but short character;
Steep Profits but shallow relationships.
It’s a time when there is much in the window,
but nothing in the room.
His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama
Though ancient in origin, Asana (physical postures) have taken on added importance in our modern times. With the advancement of technology, it has never been easier to be coaxed into a sedentary lifestyle. The resulting tightness and weakness of our muscular-skeletal systems has resulted in unnatural body mechanics, poor posture and innumerable orthopedic issues.
Meanwhile, our minds have never been busier – consumed by sense-stimulating objects and the desires they promote. As our bodies move less, our minds run faster. With the advent of the wireless technology that fits in our pockets we can call, see or hear almost anything or anyone at any time. With much of the world’s information at the touch of a button, we retain the illusion that we are safe and connected. For most people the only remote place that remains is within. “Know thyself” we do not.
In a society that moves as fast as ours, Yoga has a special allure. Why? Because it has the capacity to bring us in touch with our true, eternal nature. The practice of Yoga provides us with a valuable recuperating mechanism. It is not meant be approached with an outward, competitive mind. Instead, a heightened state of attention should be focused inward. Through precise movements and mental focus the Yoga practitioner can reverse this detrimental trend towards sedentary living and dissatisfaction.
According to the Yoga Sutras, the ultimate state of Yoga is freedom, or “kaivalya.”
The Bhagavad Gita describes Yoga as the “path of the eternal and freedom from bondage.”
The goal of Yoga is to be free like a bird – but not like a bird in a cage…
The Yogi knows that he or she is very lucky to receive a human body. This body is not meant to be an abode of stress and worry. The Yogi is “dhrityutsahasamanvitah” – full of intelligence and enthusiasm, but not at all bothered about how things finally turn out. Our Natural State is meant to be one of freedom, viewing the world as a mart of joy, absorbing the Divine Bliss that pervades the universe.
The accomplished Yogi is happy, and feels free like a bird, but not like a bird in cage. Some may say, “This bird is lucky, it lives in a gold cage.” But the Yogi sees all cages as the same.
Here is what two Yogi’s have to say on the subject of “freedom.”
“Utilize the things of this world and the next for just one goal – the attainment of freedom.”
“Possessions, learning, beauty, everything else – as long as they help us to that goal, they are of practical value. When they have ceased helping us onto that goal of freedom, they are a positive danger.”
“What are we here for? We are here for freedom, for knowledge. We want to know in order to make ourselves free. That is our life – one universal cry for freedom.”
“Freedom – physical freedom, mental freedom, and spiritual freedom are the watchwords of the Upanishads.”
“Our desire for freedom is above all, our desire for God. It was to this freedom above all that Christ referred when he said, “the truth shall set you free.”
“Bondage and freedom are in the mind. Thinking of weakness and bondage, one becomes weak and bound. Thinking of strength and freedom, one becomes strong and free.”
Sri Nisargadatta Maharaj:
“Attachment is bondage, detachment is freedom. To crave is to slave.”
“Happiness depends on something or other and can be lost; freedom from everything depends on nothing and cannot be lost.”
“Nothing physical or mental can give you freedom. You are free once you understand that your bondage is of your own making and you cease forging the chains that bind you.”
“But whatever be the condition of your mind, in what way does it reflect you? It is only your self-identification with your mind that that makes you happy or unhappy. Rebel against your slavery to your mind, see your bonds as self-created and break the chains of attachment and revulsion. Keep in mind your goal of freedom, until it dawns on you that you are already free.”
“To act from desire and fear is bondage, to act from love is freedom.”
“Freedom is freedom from worry.”
“The moment a realized man becomes predictable, he cannot be free. His freedom lies in his being free to fulfill the need of the moment, to obey the necessity of the situation. Freedom to do what one likes is really bondage, while being free to do what one must, what is right, is real freedom.”
Pranayama is the 4th limb of the Eight-Limbed / Ashtanga Yoga system of Patanjali.
“Purification is the keynote of Hatha Yoga, and the foremost practice of purification is Pranayama.”
”When the breath wanders the mind is unsteady. But when the breath is calm, the mind too will be still, and the yogi achieves long life. Therefore, one should learn to control the breath.” -Hatha Yoga Pradipika
“When you inhale, you are taking the strength from God. When you exhale, it represents the service you are giving to the world.” -B.K.S. Iyengar
“Inhale and God approaches you. Hold the inhalation, and God remains with you. Exhale, and you approach God. Hold the exhalation, and surrender to God.” -Krishnamacharya
“Knowledge comes alive only thru practice.” –Upanishads
“Whether young, old or too old, sick or lean, one who discards laziness gets success if he practices Yoga. Success comes to him who is engaged in the practice; for by merely reading books on Yoga, one can never get success. Success cannot be attained by adopting a particular dress. It cannot be gained by telling tales. Practice alone is the means of success.” – Svatmarama, Hatha Yoga Pradipika
“Anyone who practices can obtain success in yoga but not one who is lazy. Constant practice alone is the secret of success.” -Svatmarama, Hatha Yoga Pradipika
“Practice is the instrument of liberation, O Goddess. Bookish scholarship is not such an instrument. Scholarship (shastra) is everywhere readily available, but practice is very difficult to accomplish.” – Vina-Shikha-Tantra
“Yoga is 99% practice and 1% theory.” -Sri Krishna Pattabhi Jois
“If we practice the science of yoga, which is useful to the entire human community and which yields happiness both here and hereafter – if we practice it without fail, we will then attain physical, mental, and spiritual happiness, and our minds will flood towards the Self.” -Sri K. Pattabhi Jois
“Do your practice and all is coming.” – Sri Krishna Pattabhi Jois
“Before you’ve practiced, the theory is useless. After you’ve practiced, the theory is obvious.” -David Williams
“No one is wise by birth, for wisdom results from one’s own efforts.” –Krishnamacharya
“Practice is the repeated effort to follow the discipline which gives permanent control of the thought waves of the mind. Practice becomes firmly grounded when it has been cultivated for a long time, uninterruptedly, with earnest devotion.” –Yoga Sutras
“Achievement comes through effort.” –Sri Nisargadatta Maharaj
“It is what you are inwardly that matters. Your inner peace and joy you have to earn. It is much more difficult than earning money. No university can teach you to be yourself. The only way to learn is by practice.” –Sri Nisargadatta Maharaj
“The obstacles to wisdom are deeply affected by practice.” –Sri Nisargadatta Maharaj
Om, or Aum, is said to be the primordial sound that was present at the creation of the universe. It is the original sound that contains all other sounds, all words, all languages and all mantras.
Upon first hearing, this might seem a bit far-fetched. Yet Om is from the Sanskrit language, which is one of our oldest languages and is the antecedent to English and most European languages. More evidence can be found for this in three of the world’s major religions. It is thought that “Amen” in Christianity, “Amin” in Islam and “Shalom” in Judaism were all derived from AUM. Even “mom” or “ma,” the first utterance of many children, are strikingly similar to the word Om.
Om is considered the supreme mantra, or sacred syllable used for meditation. Om is thought to be the holiest of all words, and has been the object of profound religious meditation. The mantra “OM” is the name of God, the reflection of the absolute Reality, the vibration of the Supreme.
Om consists of three sounds, a – u – m. When taken letter by letter, A-U-M symbolizes the holy trinities or sacred triunes that are integral to Hindu Philosophy.
A few examples of sacred triunes are:
The three phonemes a (a-kāra), u (u-kāra), m (ma-kāra), are themselves considered to be spiritually charged. A-kara refers to solid forms or shapes – like earth, trees, or metal. U-kara refers to formless or shapeless matter – like water, air or fire. Ma-kara means neither shape nor shapeless – such as thoughts, or the dark matter in the Universe. When we combine all three phonemes we get AUM.
The combination of these three sounds produces an all-encompassing range of speech. Remarkably, though composed of three elements, it is still pronounced as one syllable. This reflects a higher state of Reality, a state of non-differentiation, non-partiality and equanimity. In essence, Om is the signifier of the ultimate truth that all is one.
The pronunciation of this monosyllabic word is complex and has been described as: “A long or over-long nasalized close-mid back rounded vowel.” Various Sutras have emphasized that the repetition of Om should be made with an understanding of its meaning. It is so laden with spiritual energy that it should be pronounced with complete concentration. For its correct pronunciation please view the video that accompanies this post.
So the next time you hear or speak this word, know that the power of this word goes well beyond any individual – and, in fact, serves to unite us all – while connecting us to the beginning of time.