July 19, 2001
by Swami Chaitanya Keerti
Yoga and meditation turn the key
YOGA and meditation have become famous in the West these days and their popularity is growing day by day. This popularity is mainly due to the benefits that body, mind and soul accrue by practising them. At the same time, a lot of misunderstanding prevails about yoga and meditation.
Teachers of meditation who have gone from India to the West are there to look for job opportunities just as a lot of technocrats reach out to the West in search of jobs created by the boom in Information Technology. There is a similar boom in the meditation market. At the same time, teaching yoga and meditation has become just any other job with a difference though; the package includes religion and respect.
Because of the western materialistic attitude, everything has to be packaged in a business-like fashion. That’s why it was easier and quite tempting to make Eastern meditations and allied sciences as a lucrative business. The health-conscious Western society that is ever ready to pounce on anything that provides solace and comfort has been showing an increasing interest in whatever the Indian yoga teachers have put on offer. Due to the compulsions of communications, lack of true understanding of the subject and greed, Indian teachers have not been successful in imparting the right kind of understanding of yoga and meditation to the West.
People think that yoga means a union or yoking of “body and mind.” Now this is half-baked. Yoga is not just the yoking or union of body and mind. When one is feeling undivided within, one is in yoga. To use Osho’s phrase, “an individual is one who is indivisible.” Akhand Purush (not divided in parts) rather than Advait Purush, is the yogi. Meditation is the way and alchemy to attain that state of being. It is not just a kind of concentration or rhythmic breathing as it is commonly misunderstood. To differentiate between meditation and concentration, I take the example of a torch and a lamp. A torch channels light in a certain direction, it is focused. This means concentration. A lamp gives light to all directions, lights up the whole room, and no corner remains in the darkness. This is meditation.
According to many yoga teachers, it is the “union of the individual soul with the universal spirit,” called Brahman in normal tradition. But this again is fallacious. There is no individual soul — all ’soul’ is universal. There is personal ego that appears to be the soul. In meditation this gets dissolved and one feels oneness with the universal soul.
The goal of yoga is that it is not physical discipline, health or body awareness alone, but “mastering the universe and controlling the whole of nature.” But then, what is man? A mini universe! It’s all the same. J. Krishnamurti is right when he says: You are the world. One who understands one’s nature — and this understanding happens in meditation — becomes a Swami, master of oneself, one’s own nature”. It is not any control but understanding of oneself in entirety. Another misunderstanding prevalent is that yoga is only “quasi-religious,” which is not true. Yoga is a spiritual science of the inner dimension. It is not half or full. It is a total science of the transformation of the individual. It is not a religious ritual. It is a scientific methodology of transformation and Patanjali is the first known scientist who developed it as a system.
Someone in the West wrote, “aside from the Eastern spiritual component, yoga is sometimes used in occultism as a technique to achieve an altered state of consciousness during which one can channel or manipulate forces.” This is not right, though it is true that some so-called yogis indulge in all kinds of tricks to manipulate forces and impress others. Yoga is basically for one’s own transformation and attaining to Sat, Chit, Anand — Truth, Consciousness and Bliss.