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6.   What does the word yoga mean?

Yoga means “to become one with.”  It is derived from the Sanskrit word yuj, which is the root of the English word yoke, as in “to yoke” two oxen together.  Yoga is the intuitional science that leads an individual to merge with Cosmic Spirit.

 

7.  When did the practice of yoga begin?

Yoga is derived from tantra, which began over 7000 years ago.  Tantra means to liberate (tra) from bondage (tan).  The first known teacher who systematized tantra was Shiva, who lived about 7,000 years ago.  Tantra is based on a focused, concerted struggle to develop insight and power to overcome all obstacles, internal and external, in individual and collective life. One of its main scriptures, the Bhagavad Gita, contains instructions on an ancient Indian battlefield—which represents all of life, everywhere—to Arjuna, an outstanding warrior---representing every spiritual aspirant—from Krishna—the voice of compassion and reason.  Arjuna falls down in utter dejection and confusion when he sees the cost of the battle that he is about to enter, and Krishna then instructs him that he must fight, how he must fight, and the costs to him and society if he does not fight. 

 

All practitioners of yoga must be adept at handling conflict, internal as well as external.  They must know at the outset that there are five conflict strategies that can be used in various circumstances.  These strategies are as follows:  1) to avoid conflict, 2) to yield—to give all away, 3) to compromise—give part part and to receive part, 4) to collaborate, and 5) to fight to win, or die in the attempt.  The very difficult message of the Bhagavad Gita is that conflict is inescapable and that one must fight to uphold dharama or righteousness at any cost.   Krishna assures Arjuna that those who uphold dharma will be upheld by it and be victorious.  If this message is not taught in a yoga class, it is not a yoga class worth its name.

 

8.  What are the basic teachings of yoga?

The first is subjective approach with objective adjustment.  This means to seek the guidance of inner spirit first and then to use that insight to meet the demands of the external world.  The opposite often occurs, where individuals seek guidance from outside first and then listen to their inner self later—often causing great distress, because the self has been compromised by following the wrong voice—the voice of someone else or an “in group,”  not the voice of authenticity, integrity, and conscience.

 

The second teaching is to understand dharma and to follow it.  Dharma means characteristic.  The dharma of fire is to burn; the dharma of water is to flow.

 

The dharma of an animal is to eat, to sleep, to reproduce, and to seek safety from threatening situations.

 

The dharma of a human being is to expand on all levels (vistara), to merge with the Cosmic Flow (rasa), to serve all creatures (tapah), and to become established (tad stithih) in these  above three traits, until they become second nature.

 

Since human beings possess animal dharma, they must struggle to control it and to guide it along the path of human dharma.  The real struggle often occurs inside, coming to grips with animal dharma.

 

The third teaching is that all yoga instruction should be given “as free as the sun and the air.”

 

The fourth teaching is that morality is the base, meditation is the means, and liberation is the goal.

 

The base contains ten simple teachings, divided into two parts.  The first five are Yama, meaning “to control,” and the second five are Niyama, meaning “to cultivate.”

 

Yama.

1.  Ahimsa.  Minimizing violence in thought, word and deed.  If attacked, use the least amount of force needed to thwart the attacker.  Do not injure or kill unless absolutely necessary.
2.  Satya.  Thinking and speaking with benevolence.  Keep your mind attached to Truth and Kindness.
3.  Asteya.  Respecting the property of others, and not stealing--actually or mentally--from others or yourself.
4.  Brahmacarya.  Recognizing and honoring the spirit of all life forms.
5.  Aparigraha.  Detaching from luxuries and donating any extra wealth to charity.

Niyama.

1. Shoaca.   Striving to become clean physically and mentally, avoiding self-obsession.
2. Santosa.  Being content with your lot, even in adversity, while working to improve it with diligence, patience, and grace.
3.  Tapah.  Serving all creatures, including your own soul, without expectation of reward.
4. Svadhyaya.  Systematic study of scripture to grasp its real—and often hidden—meaning.
5.  Iishvara pranidhana.  Accepting the shelter of Cosmic Consciousness and meditating upon It.

 

9.  How does one attain the goal of yoga?

The goal of yoga is to unite the mind—which is unruly by nature—with Cosmic Spirit.  Rendering service to all creatures while seeking liberation is considered the correct way to fulfill this goal.

 

Good company (satsaunga) is essential to follow a yogic lifestyle, as well as to maintain it successfully.  We are surrounded by many depraving forces, and if we are overwhelmed by them, our best intentions will be ground into nothing.  For example, if Ann has 8 merits and 4 demerits, she has a resultant virtue (literally, force) of 4.  If Ann associates with Sue, who has 14 merits and 12 demerits—a resultant of 2—then Sue will corrupt Ann, since she has a smaller amount of virtue.  If Sue meets Holly, whose merits are 15 and whose demerits are 2—a resultant of 13—then Sue will be lifted up by Holly’s virtue or character, as will Ann. 

 

What should you do if you know you are invited to a gathering where corrupting behavior will predominate?  It is best to avoid such situations altogether.  But if you have to associate with people who have very low standards and values—say 30—then only enter that gathering with other virtuous people, so your collective merits—in this case, 40 merits—outweighs the group’s demerits, to avoid degeneration.  Many people have “friends” who actually corrupt them—and take perverse delight in doing so.   Consider this Aesop’s Fable:

 

The Ass and his Purchaser

 

A man who wanted to buy an Ass went to market, and, coming across

a likely-looking beast, arranged with the owner that he should be

allowed to take him home on trial to see what he was like. When he

reached home, he put him into his stable along with the other asses.

The newcomer took a look round, and immediately went and chose a place

next to the laziest and greediest beast in the stable. When the master

saw this he put a halter on him at once, and led him off and handed

him over to his owner again. The latter was a good deal surprised to

seem him back so soon, and said, "Why, do you mean to say you have

tested him already?" "I don't want to put him through any more tests,"

replied the other. "I could see what sort of beast he is from the

companion he chose for himself."

 

 

                               "A wo/man is known by the company s/he keeps."

 

10.  What is more important, knowledge, action, or devotion (a loving attitude)?

Yoga Masters say that devotion—a loving attitude—is more important. “Regarding knowledge, action and devotion, a simple formula will work for determining the degree of devotion, which is the most desirable of the three:  Action minus Knowledge equals Devotion, or A – K = D.  Thus, if action is 100 and knowledge is 20, then devotion is 80.  Suppose a person has no knowledge and only performs good deeds.  In that case, the degree of devotion will be 100 – 0 = 100.  Now, if a person is highly learned, with 100 units of knowledge, then in that case, in order to attain devotion of 20 units, he or she will have to perform 120 units of good action [120 -100 = 20].

 

11.  How many types of yoga are there?

There are basically four types or styles of yoga:

1 Hatha – approaches the goal through physical postures (asanas)

2 Jinana – approaches the goal through rigorous intellectual study

3 Karma – approaches the goal through selfless service

4 Bhakti – approaches the goal through selfless love and devotional practice

 

Raja Yoga integrates these four, combining the strengths of each.

 

Raja Yoga has eight limbs:

1. Yama (pronounced Jama)--training in five moral precepts which emphasize self restraint and control (the brakes of a car).

2. Niyama--training in five additional moral precepts which emphasize ethical purity and development (the gas pedal).

3. Asana--training in postures designed to activate and balance the endocrine system of the body (engine tune up).

4. Pratyahara--training in sense withdrawal as a preliminary step to meditation (a good map to point you in the right direction).

5. Pranayama--training in breath control as a next step for deepening meditation (timing adjustment).

6. Dharana--training in activating subtle points in the body, called chakras, for deeper meditation (ignition).

7. Dhyana--training in a one pointed meditation (acceleration).

8. Samadhi--training in absorption into the Self (atman) and then merger into Consciousness (Journey's End - Still Point).

 

Rajadhiiraja Yoga is the most elevated form of Raja Yoga.  Its name literally means the    "the King of Royal Yoga."  It was formulated by the great sage Ashtavarka over two thousand years ago.  Ashtavarka added a number of Tantric practices to Raja Yoga that had been lost during the 50 centuries that had elapsed since Shiva’s time.  This "top of the line" system of Yoga

1.  is offered free of charge, with no consideration given to status, caste,  gender, ethnicity, race, or religion;
2.  is tailored to each individual's personality type, constitution, medical condition, and temperament--one size does not fit all;
3.  is based on 3-4 asanas in the morning and 3 - 4 in the evening--to prevent over stimulation of the glandular system;
4.  includes special asanas and Ayurvedic remedies for many diseases (e.g., diabetes, cancer, dysentery, etc.);
5.  contains many teachings for moral, mental, emotional, social, and spiritual development;
6.  is based on a wide range of sutras (scriptural threads) known to mankind;
7.  is taught by highly qualified acaryas who have undergone rigorous training;
8.  contains of Guru Shakti--the liberating vision and energy of Comic Consciousness that dispels psychic and spiritual darkness--during initiation and lessons;
9.  includes many special, dynamic practices not known to the Raja Yoga system;
10.  emphasizes the importance of women's liberation and their "coordinated cooperation" in all spheres of life--not subordinated cooperation;
11.  includes careful guidance from teachers and mentors who point the way to correct knowledge, behavior, and practice;
12.  teaches a global socio-economic theory that distributes physical, mental, and spiritual wealth rationally and equitably;
13.  Contains exquisite devotional songs that lift and guide human beings to spiritual realization;
14.  incorporates ancient mantras from the Vedas that are sung before and after collective meditation;
15.  includes special dances--tandava for men, kaoshiiki for women, and lalita marmika for all;
16.  provides global satsaunga (fellowship) based upon universal moral principles and respect for all life;
17.  promotes broadmindedness, charity, and tolerance in all areas of life and rejects castism, racism, sexism, and imperialism;
18.  has zero tolerance for hypocrisy--all rules apply to each equally.

12.  Is yoga a religion?

No and yes.  It is not a religion in the sense of following a formalized external ritual.  But it is similar to all religious practice in that it seeks to connect the individual to the Source, literally, “to bind back” (re-ligere) to Cosmic Consciousness.  There are Hindu, Buddhist, Taoist, and Christian forms of yoga.  Atheists and agnostics practice yoga, as well.   It is open to all, as long as there is the sincere desire to practice.  Belief systems are less important than practice, for belief systems change throughout life, and all individuals interpret their practice in various ways that evolve over time.  Yoga recognizes the unity of all spiritual experience and is thus synthetic in its approach, not analytic, which separates people and divides them into competing groups.

 

As an example of this inclusive approach, P. R Sarkar (1921-81) taught that human beings have four possible ways of relating to the world:  1) through a sentimental, possessive attachment to a territory or region (geo-sentiment), 2) through a sentimental, exclusive attachment to a social group (socio-sentiment), 3) through a sentimental, narrow attachment to human beings (human-sentiment), and 4) through a rational, compassionate attachment to all life forms (neo-humanistic sentiment).  Sarkar believes that geo-sentiment, socio-sentiment, and human-sentiment are flawed, creating hatred and conflict, attributes that are unworthy of human beings, whose spiritual capacities, though generally untapped and undeveloped, are enormous.  It is only when Neo-humanistic sentiment is aroused that human intellect is liberated.  What enables human beings to achieve this kind of liberation is "devotional sentiment," the love of God.  Devotional sentiment, the highest achievement in human life, leads to subtle aesthetic experience, the experience of beauty in all its forms, in all realms, many of which lie beyond ordinary sense perception.  When this kind of subtle aesthetic experience is developed to its highest level, it leads to Supra-aesthetic experience, to the Bliss of Consciousness Itself (Anandam). 

 

13.  Is yoga a cult?

It can be.  Avoid financial, emotional, and sexual exploitation, and you should be OK.

 

14.  How important are asanas (yogic postures)?

They have a small but significant role to play in integrating the body and mind and preparing the mind for enlightenment.  The purpose of asanas is to regulate the hormonal system, thus creating health and mental equipoise.  Asanas are distinct from exercise.  Asanas primarily target the endocrine system, whereas exercise targets the muscular, respiratory, and circulatory systems.  Exercise should be kept separate from the practice of asanas and meditation, since they have a different tempo and goal.  Ideally, each person should practice 3 or 4 asanas in the morning, before breakfast, and 3 or 4 asanas in the evening, before dinner.  Too many asanas can undo the balance that is sought, so it is best to have a set of individual asanas prescribed by an acarya who is qualified to do so. 

 

Exercise can occur 2 hours before or two hours after asanas and meditation.  A “Yoga workout” is a contradiction in terms.

 

Beginners will spend most of their time practicing the physical aspect of yoga.  Intermediate practitioners will spend about half of their time practicing the physical aspect of yoga, with the other half on meditation and related practices.  Advanced practitioners will spend about 10% of their time practicing the physical aspect of yoga and devote the rest of their time in the practice of jinana, karma, and bhakti yogas.

 

15.  Is it important to be vegetarian?

Yes, it is recommended for many reasons—health, ethics, economics—but it is not required.  Our body’s cells are composed of the food we eat. Since the cells composed of plants are more sentient, capable of carrying subtle vibrations and conducive to intellectual development, a plant-based diet is preferred.  A plant-based diet also avoids the violence committed against billions of “food animals” who are cruelly penned up and slaughtered in brutal conditions.

 

Yoga classifies food according to three categories:

 

Sentient food is good for both physical cells and mind—fruits, vegetables, grains, legumes, dairy, spices.

Rajasic food is neutral for the physical cells but stimulate the mind—chocolate, chile, caffeine.

Tamasic food  harms both the physical cells and the mind—alcohol, drugs, meat, eggs, fish, and poultry.

 

16.   What is a mantra?

A mantra means “sound that liberates (tra) the mind (man).”  Sound is the most subtle of expressions, so it is used to lead us to our goal, Cosmic Consciousness, whose root sound is Omn.  This sound actually contains four sounds.  The first sound is “A,” the acoustic root of creation.  The second sound is “U,” the acoustic root of preservation.  The third sound is “M,” the acoustic root of dissolution.  These three sounds represent Brahma (Generator), Vishnu (Operator), and Shiva (Destroyer)—GOD.  When this mantra is written in Sanskrit, it is separated by a half moon, representing the Bridge between the Created and the Uncreated Worlds, and a small Dot, representing the Cosmic Nucleus, the Unmanifest  Center from which everything originates.  This is the fourth sound, the Sound of Silence, represented vocally by the “N” sound after the “M” sound, and then the silence after that.  This Sound of Silence represents the deeply resonant Nucleus of the Universe.  This is why some Yoga teachers maintain that it is best not even to try to utter the Omn mantra, since it lies beyond all manifestation.  Since it is beyond all manifestation, it also lies beyond the periphery of the human ear—and every other sense.  This is one of the reasons why other mantras are not supposed to be uttered aloud as well, but only repeated mentally, internally.

However, Universal mantras, such as Jai Ram, Shrii Ram,, Jai jai, Ram (Victory to the Supreme Radiance of the Universe) and Baba Nam Kevalam (Love is All There Is, the Sweet Essence of the Beloved), are considered suitable for chanting, either sung aloud or repeated internally.

A siddha mantra is one that is charged with cosmic energy.  Many mantras that were used in the past have lost the power of their vibration, so they are no longer siddha or active.  Always receive a mantra from an acarya, one who has been trained in its proper use and transmission.

 

17.   Is there a social philosophy to yoga?

Yes, though some groups are more articulate about this than others.  Most yoga groups support progressive change that reduces and minimizes injury to all forms of life.  Yoga does not support the caste system, since all individuals are part of the same Cosmic Family.  Yoga supports universal acceptance, welcomes all types of people into its practice, and opposes any social or political philosophy that creates artificial distinctions among people based on color, creed, ethnicity, status, or gender orientation.  Progressive Utilization Theory states that all potentials of the universe should be shared equally, that amassing of wealth by a few at the expense of many is wrong, that resources should he distributed in a rational and equitable manner, and policies should be adjusted according to time, place, and person.

 

18.  Are there different kinds of Yoga teachers?

There is a superficial and deep answer to this.  Superficially, there are important distinctions among yoga teachers.

 

A national organization called the Yoga Alliance uses various designations for beginning and experienced Yoga teachers who have completed courses at accredited institutions.  These levels include teachers who specialize in children’s and prenatal yoga as well.

 

Acaryas, literally, those who teach by moral example, are given more rigorous training and are empowered to impart special energy (Guru Shakti) in mediation lessons and in consultations.  Advadhutas (feminine, Avadhhuitkas) are more experienced acaryas who have dedicated their entire lives to the welfare of all beings.

 

Spiritual Masters possess and can demonstrate the eight occult powers.  Two examples of this extraordinary category of teacher are Shiva and Krishna.

 

On a deeper level, these distinctions lose their significance, for the basic teaching of tantra is that Guru—Enlightening Presence—is omnipresent.  The spirit in the person who taught you how to read is the same as a stranger who teaches you something you have never known before.  Guru is always present in every situation.  We are not aware of it many times, but It is there.  Life is filled with such examples, of “uncertified” but wise people who impart teaching.  There are also many examples of wolves in sheep’s clothing, so certification carries no guarantee, no more than any other title.

 

The best test of a teacher is this. Is he or she an A class person?  A class people say what they think and do what they say.  B class people hide what they think but do what they say.  C class people think one thing, say another, and do yet another—total fake-outs, hypocrites.

 

19.   What is yantra?

Yantra is a diagram (yan) that liberates the mind.  The Shrii Yantra is an example of this.

http://www.zazzle.com/sri_yantra_round_motif_poster-228117714565702028

 

20.  What does yoga teach about sex?

Young people usually confuse these two opposite energies.  Sex goes down and out, while love goes in and up.  Sex is controlled by the second chakra, which is situated behind genital organs.  Love is controlled by the fourth chakra, which is situated in the center of the check, right near the heart.  The right combination of asanas—one group for woman, the other for men—regulate and harmonize the endrocrine system.  When the endocrine system is balanced, individuals can live without sexual tension and obsession.

 

Yoga teaches that sex should be reserved for marriage.  Yoga discourages pre-marital sexual relations, since they pose high risks to health, physical vitality, emotional balance, and spiritual insight.  There is no such thing as “safe sex,” since sexual relations make people more vulnerable to manipulation and abuse than almost any other kind of human activity.  Sexual relations are traumatic for most of the population—especially female.  Trauma is defined as physical and emotional pain that is repeated over and over again.  Serial relationships are one manifestation of this symptom.    Yoga Masters emphasize that sexual relations begin a cycle of karma that is inescapable and usually painful and bitter, disabling a person for many years, if not permanently.  There are many people who are re-living in past traumas while pretending to live in the present.

 

Too old, too soon. To smart, too late.

Patience is wisdom.  Wisdom is patience.

 

 

21.  What is the difference between brain and mind, and how do I keep both healthy?

The brain is an intricate organ with many sub-organs.  It is not completely formed in human beings until the age of 25 to 28.  The brain maintains its health by sufficient and adequate sleep (at least 8 hours), sufficient water (half your body weight in ounces per day), sufficient essential fatty acids, especially omega-3s (walnuts, avaocado, flax oil, chia seeds), sufficient physical exercise, sufficient mental challenge, and healthy forms of play and recreation.  See this video by Dr. Jensen about the Adolescent Brain—those who are under the age of 28.  The Teenage Brain

 

Yoga maintains that the mind is different from the brain.  The mind is non-physical and is housed not only in the brain but also other sub-stations the body knows as chakras.  According to yoga, the mind has six layers of kosas, each of which has special function, and each of which is associated with a chakra.  The practice of yoga is to purify each of these kosas, so that the radiance of the inner self or soul (atman) is reflected through them.

 

   Kosa                  Name                    Function         Developed by                        Weakened by

Annamaya      Physical Body             Temple            Diet, exercise              Drugs, alcohol

Kamamaya     Conscious mind         Sense, Act       Yama-Niyama                        Vicious environment

Manomaya     Subconscious              Reflect             Meditation                  Vicious environment

Atimanasa      Unconscious 1                        Create             Meditation                  Vicious environment

Vijinamaya     Unconscious 2                        Discriminate   Meditation                  Vicious environment

Hiranyamaya Unconscious 3                        Divine Desire  Meditation                  Vicious environment

Atman                        Soul                             Radiance         Meditation                  Vicious environment

 

Kaoshiiki is a yogic dance that develops and purifies all kosas.  Please click on this link

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Tg3RYrx0yOU for a demonstration.

 

This information was compiled and edited by Lars Mazzola, Allie Peraino, Nick LaVigne, Erin Carlo, and Holey Kandell in September 2015.

 

May all who read this be well, be free of suffering, and attain happiness.