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Living the Yoga Life: The Internal Life

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Because through countless incarnations we have been thinking of ourselves as being born and dying and passing from body to body, we are utterly absorbed in the relative universe which we view through the bodily faculties. Therefore, no matter how spiritual we may think ourselves to be, or how metaphysically we think and speak of ourselves and the world around us, we are to a great degree materialistic, but unaware of that. We must keep in mind that we are spirit, just as is God.

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When our present externalized consciousness is changed into internal consciousness, “not agitated in misfortunes, freed from desire for pleasures, from whom passion, fear and anger have departed, steady in thought” (Bhagavad Gita 2:56), then all illusions based on mistaken identity with externals are at an end.

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We tend to think of ourselves as small and the universe as large. But finitude is seen outside and infinitude is seen inside. Our true nature is within, and its consciousness must be cultivated continually.

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There are two kinds of people: those who are in the world and those in whom the world is contained. The second are those who have internalized their experience of the world and “digested” it. They always look within, because the inward look alone will reveal the truth of things since that is where the Self dwells in union with the Supreme Self, God. Therefore in a prophetic description of the Virgin Mary, David (who later was born as Jesus) wrote: “The king’s daughter is all glorious within” (Psalms 45:13), because she was a perfected “interior soul,” having for lifetimes lived and evolved completely within in the inner kingdom of God.

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Since we are a point of consciousness in the Ocean of Consciousness that is Brahman, we naturally think that we must look outward and move out of ourself to encounter God. But it is the opposite. We must increasingly turn inward, because God is the very core of our existence. The Bhagavad Gita speaks of Brahman as “seated in the heart of all” (13:17), and the Self as “seated in the body” (13:32), and “abiding in the heart of all beings” (10:20). Therefore the yogi must be habitually in-turned.

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The yogi comes to know that the real life is interior and hidden by the exterior. Just as the shell hides the nut, so the physical body hides the antahkarana, the inner mechanism that really keeps the yogi alive.

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Life in this world is a tapestry of tides or cycles: ebb and flow, rising and falling. And these movements are to be found in some extent even in the life of the yogi. Not that the yogi is unstable, but change is in the nature of things. Therefore we should be ever vigilant regarding our interior life and development and ready to immediately apply that which we know will increase and stabilize our basic state of consciousness.

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In the Gita Krishna says the yogi spends his time catching hold of the wandering mind and bringing it back to where it belongs. And he does this over and over. “Whenever the unsteady mind, moving here and there, wanders off, he should subdue and hold it back and direct it to the Self’s control.… Without doubt the mind is hard to control and restless; but through practice (abhyasa) and dispassion (vairagya) it is governed. I agree that yoga is difficult to attain by him whose lower self is uncontrolled; but by him whose lower self is controlled by striving by right means, it is possible to attain it” (6:26, 35-36). The Buddhist term “cultivation” for this process is perfect. An artificial garden will stay the same and need no upkeep whatever. But a real, living and growing garden will need perpetual care. So it is with us.

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It is a common human failing to think that external situations or events are going to produce a change in us, but they cannot because they are only effects, not causes. In India I have seen very many people wearing orange and living utterly bored and aimless lives, cynical and dreary of mind and heart. This is because they had the foolish, theatrical idea that they would go through a ceremony, be given a new name and clothed in gerua, and like a rocket they would fly to the infinite. It does not work that way, because work in the form of intense and prolonged sadhana is exactly what is needed.

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Without a foundation there is no need to raise walls, for they will fall down, as do the yogis that have no foundation to their sadhana. We must ensure that all aspects of our life are causes: that which will bring about change in the form of evolution of consciousness. Then we will move onward to the Goal, empowered by life-giving elements such as discipline, purification and constant japa and meditation.

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The Bhagavad Gita, speaking of true wisdom, jnana, says: “By this you shall come to see all creation in your Self and then in me” (4:35). Everything is contained in the inner world, and we must come to see and experience that inner world.

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The ability to perceive is more important to the individual being than anything else. Consciousness is the very substance of spirit and Spirit. Therefore the wise yogi considers that his state of consciousness alone matters and he keeps intent on that, ignoring the ego-circus of phenomena that captivates deluded human beings.

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The yogi understands that all his external experience is really internal; that the thing that matters is its effect on his mind: does it help him to the goal or hinder him? The very fact that he has such a perspective ensures that his life will not be wasted in the manner of most people, who are addicted to the world and every little breeze or current claims and absorbs their attention. Every distraction along the way keeps them entertained and unaware that life is draining away from them over and over. As a result, in every life they make little or no spiritual progress.

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The yoga adept sees with both the two physical eyes and the single, spiritual eye, but he knows that what is seen by the inner, spiritual eye is real and to be valued above all. Therefore he gives most of his attention to the inner sight while not neglecting the outer sight and the world it reveals.

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The wise know they cannot describe or define anything by external perceptions, but they must gauge every thing by what their inner sight, their higher intuition, reveals about it. They truly do live within, even though they clearly see that which is without as well as that which is within.

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The inner world is much vaster than the outer world, and the yogi who has transmuted his inner world is the master of all he surveys. Therefore: “He whose happiness is within, whose delight is within, whose illumination is within: that yogi, identical in being with Brahman, attains Brahmanirvana” (Bhagavad Gita 5:24).

Writing this, I am reminded of a prime example: Sri Yogeshwar Brahmachari. I saw him several times at spiritual conferences in India. Sri Ramakrishna used to say that a yogi’s eyes often have an inward look “like the eyes of the mother bird hatching her eggs. Her entire mind is fixed on the eggs,” so her eyes have an indrawn expression. It was the same with him. He would sit on a platform for hours without any movement whatsoever. Usually he had his eyes closed, but when they were open they had exactly this indrawn expression. It was the same when he was walking about. Even when he spoke, that inward-turned look remained somewhat.

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The inward vision reveals the difference between the Real and the unreal. The master yogi “sees true” at all times. This is both viveka and vairagya.

Next in Living the Yoga Life: Japa and Sound (Shabda)

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About to Living the Yoga Life–Perspectives on Yoga

Living the Yoga Life–Perspectives on Yoga

Living the Yoga Life–Perspectives on Yoga: Introduction

    1. Living the Yoga Life: Climbing the Ladder of Consciousness
    2. Living the Yoga Life: Sanatana Dharma, Sanatana Yoga
    3. Living the Yoga Life: The Atman/Self
    4. Living the Yoga Life: Bhakti and Jnana
    5. Living the Yoga Life: Brahman
    6. Living the Yoga Life: Ishwara
    7. Living the Yoga Life: Breath
    8. Living the Yoga Life: India and Sanatana Dharma
    9. Living the Yoga Life: The Importance of Independence
    10. Living the Yoga Life: The Intelligent Path
    11. Living the Yoga Life: The Internal Life
    12. Living the Yoga Life: Japa and Sound (Shabda)
    13. Living the Yoga Life: Japa with the Breath
    14. Living the Yoga Life: Jnana
    15. Living the Yoga Life: The Jnani
    16. Living the Yoga Life: Karma and Karma Yoga
    17. Living the Yoga Life: Kundalini
    18. Living the Yoga Life: Liberation
    19. Living the Yoga Life: It Is All Up To Us
    20. Living the Yoga Life: Madness, Divine and Worldly
    21. Living the Yoga Life: Manas (Mind) and Buddhi (Intelligence/Intellect)
    22. Living the Yoga Life: Buddhi Yoga
    23. Living the Yoga Life: True Masters (And Not)
    24. Living the Yoga Life: Maya
    25. Living the Yoga Life: Meditation
    26. Living the Yoga Life: Prana
    27. Living the Yoga Life: Raja Yoga
    28. Living the Yoga Life: Reincarnation
    29. Living the Yoga Life: Religion
    30. Living the Yoga Life: Samadhi
    31. Living the Yoga Life: Sadhana
    32. Living the Yoga Life: Dedication to Spiritual Life
    33. Living the Yoga Life: Self-realization
    34. Living the Yoga Life: Shivashakti
    35. Living the Yoga Life: Spiritual Experience
    36. Living the Yoga Life: The Spiritual Teacher
    37. Living the Yoga Life: Subtle Anatomy
    38. Living the Yoga Life: The World
    39. Living the Yoga Life: Worship
    40. Living the Yoga Life: Yoga, the Body and the World
    41. Living the Yoga Life: Dharma and Adharma
    42. Living the Yoga Life: Yoga–The Supreme Dharma
    43. Living the Yoga Life: Yoga Nidra
    44. Living the Yoga Life: The Yogi
    45. Living the Yoga Life: Some Advice to Yogis
    46. Living the Yoga Life: Qualities of a Yogi
    47. Living the Yoga Life: This and That
    48. Living the Yoga Life: Touch Not
    49. Living the Yoga Life: The Gita Speaks To The Yogi
    50. Living the Yoga Life: How It Is Done
    51. Living the Yoga Life: Use your mind
    52. Living the Yoga Life: Some things it is wise to avoid
    53. Living the Yoga Life: Things you should definitely do and have in your life
    54. Living the Yoga Life: Spiritual Reading
    55. Living the Yoga Life: Gorakhnath Speaks To The Yogi
    56. Living the Yoga Life: And A Final Word From Me
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