International Yoga Day – (2) What is Yoga?

(This article is reproduced from Rikhiapeeth Swami Styananda’s Satsanga for “International Yoga Day – in anticipation” with thanks)

Man is subjected to laws of evolution. The law of evolution is obligatory for each and every speck of this creation. Therefore, in order to reach the higher con­sciousness or higher stages of life, one has to fulfil the ne­cessary rules or conditions of evolution. There is a certain law of gravity with human destiny known as maya. It is a force which binds everybody to this lower existence. If you are not able to go beyond maya, then you have to remain bound to this lower existence.

In order to overcome the force of maya, you need an extra force in your life. This extra force is known as vidya, or higher experience. When you throw a stone high up in the air, it again comes down to the center of gravity, but if you give speed to the stone and throw it much higher than you did before, this stone can penetrate much deeper into space. Likewise, in spiritual life there are certain elements which one has to adopt in order to overcome the gravitational force of maya.

Maya operates through the mind. When the mind is clogged by ignorance, maya has a greater effect on you. Most of us are full of avidya, ignorance, therefore the force of maya is able to influence us through our minds and, as such, we are not able to have a higher experience. With the help of the mind, maya imposes lower instincts in our life.

There are three things you must understand – instinct, intellect and intuition. Instinct controls animals; all animal creatures behave, live and act through instinct. In human life there is a predom­inance of intellect, but at the same time we have instincts also. Therefore, in our human incarnation we are partly controlled by instincts and partly controlled by intellect, but by the practices of yoga you can operate through intuition directly. Higher human beings operate through intuition. Human beings operate through intellect. Animals operate through instinct.

What are the instincts? Acquiring food is one form of instinct, the instinct of self-preser­vation. Progeny or the sexual act is another instinct in animals, it is necessary for propagation and pleasure. The third instinct is sleep and the fourth instinct is what we call fear or insecurity. These four instincts are predominant in every animal, but animals do not know that they have them because they do not have intellect. Human beings also have these four, but at the same time they have intellect.

If you want to make maya ineffective, it is necessary to transcend your instincts bit by bit. It is very difficult to transcend instinct, but if you want to go high you will have to do some­thing, because the force of maya operates through the mind. Therefore, in spiritual life there are a few supports. First, is the support of guru, second is the support of satsang and the third support is swadhyaya, se1f-study.

Guru is the primary support. Satsang means association with the wise. When you listen to good ideas, it helps you. You may not be able to put these good ideas into practice, but they will definitely inspire you and help you. When you expose yourself to satsang, you are improving the vibration of your person­ality, and you are also initiating into yourself a process of self-analysis. The third support is swadh­yaya. Swadhyaya is a process of reading and studying the books which relate to spiritual life. When you make a study and read the books I have spoken about, it gives you a lot of inspiration.

When you want to heat milk you keep it near the fire. If the fire goes off, what will happen? The milk will go cold. If you want the milk to be heated, again you will have to put it on the fire. If you want to main­tain the temperature of the milk, you will have to maintain the temperature of the fire. In the same way, if you want to maintain your spiritual temperature you will need these three types of support.


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