How Well Do You Know Yoga? – Br. Shankara

Sunday, November 5, 2017

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November is a month for study of Raja Yoga, a spiritual path often called the yoga of meditation. A raja yogi uses ancient, proven spiritual techniques to quiet the mind and gain control of her or his attention. Regular daily practice of concentration may lead to meditation, which can reveal God and liberate you from the cycle of rebirth and death.

Swami Vivekananda
Swami Vivekananda

Perhaps you have been practicing Hatha Yoga for some time, with a qualified teacher. You know a flexible routine of poses (asanas), and you have gained physical strength and poise, and a sense of inner balance. These are three wonderful fruits of yoga training.

Yoga was first introduced to a wide audience of Americans in the mid-1890s, by Swami Vivekananda. When he published a translation of and commentary on Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras in 1896, he titled the book “Raja Yoga: the royal path to conquering your internal nature.”

The Swami taught that, from Patanjali’s point of view, the purpose of perfecting the asanas is to allow your body to sit perfectly still, comfortably, for long enough to truly turn the mind within. Sinking into the silence of meditation “will take away all our misery,” Vivekananda promised.

By analyzing your own mind, he wrote, you “come face-to-face, as it were, with something which is never destroyed, something which is, by its own nature, eternally pure and perfect …” This encounter with Pure Consciousness, the source of your being, liberates you “from fear, from unsatisfied desire.”

“Man will find that he never dies, and then he will have no more fear of death. When he knows that he is perfect, he will have no more vain desires, and both causes being absent, there will be no more misery — there will be perfect bliss, even while in this body.”

Yet, why should you believe what the Swami says? You know that learning asanas yields pleasing and practical results. What proof is there that if you take more time to follow Patanjali’s other instructions, you can achieve anything like what Vivekananda promises?

In this talk we offer answers to those questions, and explore how the practice of Raja Yoga really can take away your misery, by freeing you from fear and unsatisfied desire.