Q: How does a person go about becoming a yogi? I mean a real yogi in a real tradition?
First of all, seek God and God alone, and never accept any intermediary, though there is nothing wrong in learning from teachers. But scrutinize them thoroughly and do not be afraid to question, ignore or reject them.
I appreciate your question, because it took me years to become a real yogi. I will tell you what I think is indispensable in becoming a true yogi. (These are not in order of importance, just as they occurred to me.)
- Become a vegetarian: no meat, fish, eggs or anything that contains them to any degree. [See Spiritual Benefits of a Vegetarian Diet on our website or get the free Kindle download.]
- Abstain absolutely from alcohol, nicotine and any mind-altering drugs. [See The Four Soul Killers.]
- Live according to the principles of yama and niyama without compromise or mitigation. They are:
• Ahimsa: non-violence, non-injury, harmlessness
• Satya: truthfulness, honesty
• Asteya: non-stealing, honesty, non-misappropriativeness
• Brahmacharya: sexual continence in thought, word and deed as well as control of all the senses
• Aparigraha: non-possessiveness, non-greed, non-selfishness, non-acquisitiveness
• Shaucha: purity, cleanliness
• Santosha: contentment, peacefulness
• Tapas: austerity, practical (i.e., result-producing) spiritual discipline
• Swadhyaya: introspective self-study, spiritual study
• Ishwarapranidhana: offering of one’s life to God
Read The Foundations of Yoga on our ocoy.org. website for exposition of them all. [Also available as a free Kindle download.]
- Avoid joining any organization. In time you find they are worthless.
- Learn authentic Indian and Yoga philosophy. Read the Bhagavad Gita, the Upanishads and a translation of the Yoga Sutras not written by a propagandist for a particular yoga method or teacher.
- Read one chapter of the Gita each day. The concepts and truths it contains are so lacking in Western religion that it is easy to pass over them and let them slip or get pushed into the background of your mind if you just read it once or only occasionally (which will be end up being never, eventually). If people read the Gita daily with intelligent attention, they could not be fooled by the glitter gurus.
- Read everything by Yogananda that you know has not been altered by the publisher. (If you do not know for sure, then read with caution and be aware that some things may not be his real teaching.)
- In relation to the point above: Stay completely away from the Kriya Yoga jungle. It is a mess of lies, chicanery, delusions and well-meaning (usually sentimental) ignorance. A lot of fools, lunatics and scoundrels are teaching and writing about Kriya Yoga, and the more traditional and “original” they claim to be, the worse.I was privileged to know a great Kriya Yoga Master, who was not like any of these self-proclaimed gurus. He hid himself completely and swore his students (not “disciples”) to total secrecy regarding their association with him and their meditation practice. Further, and very important: he taught even his students that Kriya was not the highest method, but that it was just the best for people of a certain temperament. He even wrote and published articles on other sadhanas which he considered equally effective and beneficial. He lived right in the midst of one of India’s major holy cities and was considered by everyone as irreligious, a materialist and a blot on his religious-yogi family’s name. And all the time he was a walking god among them.
- You do not need to dress like an Indian and sit on the floor and eat with your fingers. But you do need to adopt and identify with Sanatana Dharma. If you really do so, you will find yourself at one with all true religion.
- Never close your mind. Be ready to learn, adopt and conform to any wisdom you encounter.
- Never get initiation from any group or teacher. Real yoga can be practiced by all, because it is based on the fundamental nature of the sentient human being.
- Investigate and try for yourself the various forms of meditation and then decide from your experience their true value. And be ready to continue doing so all your life.
- Let no one bully you into their narrow, ignorant ideas, especially those that want to pen you up in some soul-trap of an organization or guru’s group of pygmy adorers.
- Understand that most “techniques” only prepare or get you ready for meditation, though their practice is often passed off as meditation. Be assured that real yoga sadhana is self-sufficient. It is a single thing that you will discover is both method and result itself. True yoga does not lead to enlightenment, it is enlightenment. That is, it does not produce enlightenment, it reveals it through the unveiling of your Self.
- Know you are in a cult or con game when you encounter talk about “purity of teachings.” That is a sure mark of a fraudulent group. Whether they ever had “pure” teachings or not, this is a sign that they do not have them now.
- Run away from those that tell you “devotion” and/or “grace” is all that you need in spiritual life. These are the “devotee” types that intend to emotionally brainwash and blackmail you into fearing to question or examine their fake philosophy and (usually) guru.
- Be prepared to be all on your own, self-sufficient, without support, encouragement or understanding on the part of others, no one being “your kind” at all.
- Spend time in India, looking and learning. Merge into the real India of the spirit.