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Living the Yoga Life: Yoga, the Body and the World

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No one calls their house “me,” but we constantly call our body “me.” That is how deluded we have become through countless lifetimes. The purpose of the body is to get out of it, like the nest of a bird. No bird can fly and carry the nest along with it, and we cannot fly in the Sky of Consciousness if we are tied down to body awareness and body identity.

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We must cultivate the discrimination (viveka) that enables us to distinguish between our two dwellings: the mortal body and the immortal Brahman. Body consciousness is really a sort of death, but Brahmavidya, the realization of Brahman, is true life. We have always existed in Brahman, and our incarnation in a body is but an illusory dream. The subtle discrimination we need is in no way an intellectual process, but the direct realization which meditation alone can give.

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As long as we know only the body we are beggars and miserable, but our real nature is Brahmic bliss that is beyond description. How wonderful is Sanatana Dharma! It alone of the world’s philosophies tells us the full truth of our immortal, divine Self and calls us to its realization. Most other (not all) religion is obsessed with sin and punishment and “the good life” here on earth and in a pointless heaven. True Dharma also tells us that we need not go groveling after God, for we are eternally a part of Divine Being. We need only awaken into Brahman, and Sanatana Dharma tells us how to awaken through Yoga.

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Sanatana Dharma is the understanding that our eternal Self is the only truth of our being and that we can realize and demonstrate that truth.

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Sattwic people identify with spirit; rajasic people identify with the mind–manas and buddhi; and tamasic people identify with the body. Consequently, tamasic people become obsessed with hatha yoga and diet, especially fasting. No matter how defiled their minds and personal lives are, they obsess on “purification” which they think is achieved by colonics, stringent diets and prolonged fasts. Sincere seekers must not think they should take up the same obsession or blame themselves for not being interested in such pointless exercises in self-loathing.

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Tamasic people love sleep, and we must not become tamasic in that regard. However, in modern life, especially in America, most people do not get enough sleep, and even those who get eight or more hours of sleep may not be truly rested from the sleep. Such people should consult a physician and have a sleep study done. Also, excessive sleep can be a sign of a physical problem, so a physician should be consulted. I knew a yogi who craved sleep and seemed unable to get enough. It turned out that he was pre-diabetic and his body was signaling him in this way. So do not condemn or force yourself in the matter of sleep. Get qualified health advice.

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Since the body is meant to be the instrument of enlightenment, we should care about maintaining our bodily as well as our mental and spiritual health. What is inappropriate is obsessing on the body and all things related to it. Oliver Black, one of Paramhansa Yogananda’s most advanced disciples, once said to a group of people (including myself): “You can tell by a person’s conversation where their consciousness is centered. A lot of people who think they are yogis and spiritual spend most of their time talking about both ends of their digestive tract. They are either going on and on about their diet or about their bowel movements and colonics. They haven’t any idea about how much their consciousness is really tied down to the body.” It is this mistake we must avoid. Yogananda insisted that yogis must care for the body, especially its diet, but only in a sensible, practical way.

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“Truly this maya of mine made of the gunas is difficult to go beyond. Verily only those who attain me shall pass beyond this maya” (Bhagavad Gita 7:14). Only yoga can free us from addictions we formed long before we even reached the human form. Yoga is the sole means to take refuge in God and become one with him. Freedom from earthly and egoic desires is not just difficult, it it impossible to anyone but the adept yogi.

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We should respect and care for our physical vehicle, for it is the instrument of yoga and enlightenment: of evolution. But a delusive attachment (moha) for it and a kind of body-worship is folly of the worst sort. That is because such attitudes arise from identification with the body, which is as silly as identifying our body with a mirror in which it is reflected. The body, too, is a mirror, a fleeting image in the greater mirror of the cosmos. It is never “us” at any time. We should not have the slightest selfish, egoic attachment to it, or to anything else, for that matter. But such a high ideal can only be attained by one who transfers his identity to the Self through the practice of yoga. And he who knows the Self comes to know the Supreme Being in everything and everywhere.

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The body is solely a means to an end: union with Brahman. Therefore we are misusing the body and wasting this inestimable treasure, the means to divinization, if we do not make the realization of God our primary interest and endeavor in life.

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Those who identify with the body, mind and the world around them cannot help but be deluded, for the things they identify with are delusive. Those whose minds are linked to the Self are not fooled by the appearances of samsara. It is very much like the audience in a motion picture theater. Some react to the movie as though it were real, and others do not.

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If we dip water from the sea in a bucket we will only get the amount that fits in it. If our bucket is small, we will get little; if it is large, we will get much. The mind of a human being is like a bucket. Small minds get little from life and large minds get much.

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The universe is a field, an ocean, of consciousness and we will draw from it according to the scope of our consciousness. Yogananda often spoke of the need to expand our consciousness by diligent yoga practice. Life itself is consciousness. The more conscious we are, the more alive we are. Yoga, then, is the key to ever-increasing life.

Next in Living the Yoga Life: Dharma and Adharma

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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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