"That man has reached immortality who is disturbed by nothing material" ~ Swami Vivekananda

Sacred Space: Reflections

Yoga The Eternal Truth

Romola Butalia, was a professional journalist with wide experience in the print, visual and Internet media before she adopted spiritual life. She has lived and traveled widely in the Himalayas. As a practitioner of the ancient traditions of the Himalayan yogis, she is called Sriji. She has written two books, In the Presence of the Masters, and Sri Babaji Immortal Yogi of the Himalayas. Apart from being Editor, India Travelogue, she teaches Yoga and the Vedic traditions.

Yoga is when the Atman realizes its oneness with Paramatman or Brahman. The path towards this is also Yoga. More subtle than the subtlest is the Atman. Atman Bodh is Yoga. How can that Atman be expressed in words, how can that sacred Yoga be known, or be revealed through words? The very essence is Yoga. This sacred knowledge is Yoga. When we can appreciate this, we understand that Yoga is the revelation of divinity.

Yoga is not about academics, though academic study of Yoga is possible and of immense importance. Yet the divinity of Yoga supercedes all that can be said about it. The highest Truth expressed is also Yoga. To that extent, speaking of Yoga meaningfully can only be in a transcendental state or a state of worship.


Masters & Sages
Guru Gorakhnath

Pilgrim Trails
Legends of Kailash
Panch Kedar

Presence of Masters

The Sacred Kailash The entirety of Yoga Shastra, both Aagam and Nigam, originates from Bhagwan Shankar. Its depth is revealed through seeking the blessings of Sadashiva, the Source and the Destination, the cause, maintenance and dissolution. Pranam to Sri Ganesh, the first to be worshipped who bestows knowledge. Maharishi Veda Vyas, who brought to us the Four Vedas and the 18 Puranas, had entreated Sri Ganesh for the writing of the Mahabharat containing the sacred Bhagwad Gita. The Gita, along with the Upanishads and the Brahma Sutras are the Prasthan Trayi or triple foundation of the Vedantas. Pranam to Sri Saraswati who is wisdom personified and who provides the words to express wisdom. Sant Tulsidas, in writing the Ramayana, sought the blessings of Sri Ganesh and Sri Saraswati to describe Bhawani Shankar whose attributes are shradha aur vishwas, respect and faith.

The ancient parampara or traditions through which knowledge continues to be revealed, highlights the importance of sanctity in undertaking any spiritual work, even academic study of it. Yoga refers to Karma Yoga, Raja Yoga, Bhakti Yoga and Gyan Yoga as well as Hatha Yoga and Laya or Kundalini Yoga. When we engage in the practice of Sri Vidya, Das Mahavidya, Surya Vidya, Yantra, Mantra, Tantra, when we worship through anusthan, ritual and prescribed form, when we offer ahutis to Agni through Swaha in the sacred yagya, when we practice Kriya, or live in the awareness of Sahaj, we seek that eternal darshan. The Kshat-Darshan Shastras or six systems of philosophy are Gautam Rishi's Nyaya, Kanada Rishi's Vaiseshika, Kapila Muni's Sankhya, Maharishi Patanjali's Yoga, Jaimini's Purva Mimamsa and Vyasa's Vedanta. Maharishi Patanjali's Yoga Sutras provide the basis for philosophical study of Yoga. Yet, Yoga refers equally to the highest Advaita philosophy of the Upanishads, of the Ashtavakra Gita, of the Yoga Vashishtha. The Bhagwad Gita contains the essence of various paths of Yoga as taught through exemplification by none other than Yogeshwar Sri Krishna.

In speaking of Yoga, it is imperative to acknowledge Maharishi Patanjali, each of whose terse aphorisms is the doorway to the deepest contemplation through which understanding dawns. People today speak of Yoga as synonymous with Asana and Pranayama. In a world without Yama and Niyama, which are the twin pillars of the eight-limbed Yoga, asana becomes mere exercise. The spiritual impact of practicing asana can take place only when the body is treated as a temple. Each asana has the power to teach one to maintain a perfect posture so that through body-awareness, one can transcend the body. Pranayama is much more than mere breathing exercises. It is respect to breath wherein the subtle energy of the life-giving force is the essence. When breath is not wasted, when each breath is recognized as being an entire life cycle, every breath is taken in profound worship. When breath is taken in awareness of divinity, our words are a reflection of the divinity of the Prana, the subtle essence of the breath. In a world where only the reality of the 5 senses is acknowledged, pratyahara or withdrawing the mind from the senses to direct it towards the Higher Self, is an alien concept. Dharana or perfect concentration is the key to Yoga. Contrary to popular advocacy, meditation cannot be taught, Dhyana happens. Samadhi is the state of Being which is revealed to us.

Today the teaching of Yoga has widely been diluted and is being commercialized as is the nature of today's ethos. It has been brought down to the most physical level. In context of the sheer gross-ness and physicality of lifestyles, that too is inevitable. Current practice of Yoga is a reflection of the times we live in. However, Yoga remains Unchanging, Eternal, Self Luminous, Perfect. Let us not forget the source of Yoga, if we are to believe we are practitioners of this sacred path to the Ultimate.

To brand Yoga as a marketable commodity, something we audaciously lend our names to, that can be patented or protected through patents, that we can fight about in courts of law or in the market-place, is clearly because we have forgotten that Yoga is divine in nature. Its revelation is associated with divinity. As Adi Shankaracharya-ji said in a reminder of the strict rules of teaching, do not teach what you do not have direct experience of; do not teach what does not have the sanctity of the Scriptures; if there is a conflict between what the Scriptures say and your personal experience, do not teach it till you have resolved the conflict.

Let us uphold the tradition of highest sanctity without which divinity and the divine nature of Yoga cannot be revealed, cannot be realized. The revelation of Yoga is always from the Highest. As Lord Krishna revealed it to Arjuna. Those that came to participate in the divine lila of that time were not ordinary mortals - they were yogis of great stature.

Yoga is the state of Samadhi - of Unitive Consciousness. What can possibly be said of it that has not been said before? What can possibly be said of it, that can be said at all?

Samadhi is revealed through the rishis - the seers, the eternal witnesses, who simply stated, are responsible for human evolution towards Higher Consciousness. This process continues through all time. The Srutis are the revealed Truth. The Smritis are remembered wisdom, the Puranas, Itihasa and the various authoritative Scriptures are the re-telling of this to different audiences, largely according to their ability to perceive it. The codification of the Vedas is done again and again in the Dwapar Yuga of every Mahayuga. As stated in the Vishnu Purana, Krishna-Dvaipayana, son of Parasara, is the Veda Vyas of the 28th Mahayuga of the current Vivaswat Manvantar in which the sapt rishis are Maharishis Vashisht, Kashyap, Atri, Jamadagini, Gautam, Vishwamitra and Bharadwaj.

To be a perfect witness implies perfect stillness. That state of perfection is Samadhi - that is Yoga. Wherein the nature of Being can be expressed without ego-identification. The Sun is the manifestation of Surya Narayana. It is the source of life-energy on Earth. That is Samadhi.

The energy of the rivers remains even after they come to Earth, endure pollution by mankind and dry up. The electricity generated from rivers is a crude form in which this potential energy is converted to kinetic energy. The Ganga is not an ordinary river. It is the manifestation of divine energy. That energy can be invoked through tapasya, as it was, in the bringing of the mighty Ganga to Earth. The Ganga has the power to offer absolution even in this age of Kali. To know the power of the Ganga is Yoga.

The science of Yantras which contain the geometrical blueprint to invoke particular energies is one of the many branches of Knowledge that exists. Surya Vidya is the Science of invoking the energy of the Sun. Agni Vidya is the sacred science through which the energies of the gods are revealed and invoked. Knowledge remains, even when it is well-hidden. Energy cannot be destroyed. The great rishis have invoked that knowledge from the very source from time to time and revealed it to mankind.

The drashthas of Mantra are the rishis who hold the very key to a mantra and who reveal the Devata or Energy of a mantra through whom the Shakti of the mantra is invoked. This is a supremely sacred practice. It is not within the purview of learning of a mantra through taped versions by popular artists. That has its place but it does not count beyond the physical sound vibrations. Yet mantra has the power to reveal the Nada Brahma - the Cosmic sound from whence Creation began. It is imperative to be keenly aware that there are many levels that can be addressed. Each opens an entire dimension of living. Mantra Yoga is well recommended in this age. Kali Yuga is when man's mind is disturbed great gyanis will also be prey to disturbance. Mantra has the power to change the very molecular structure of cells. It is possible to live now and transcend the boundaries of the Kaii Yuga. That in essence is the teaching of Yoga to take us to that Transcendental state of Turiya, beyond time and space, where the past, present and future are one, where matter can be converted to energy and energy into matter.

I acknowledge the great rishis, whose names are countless, whose grace is boundless.

To reveal the Yoga marg or path of Yoga, and to establish the siddha tradition, Lord Shiva Himself manifested in the form of Adinath. Siddheshwar Bhagwan Shankar, Lord of Siddhas, maintains the siddha traditions. According to the siddha tradition, Macchendranath, an aspect of Lord Vishnu, is the disciple of Omkar Adinath and believed to be the source of revelation of the siddha tradition to mankind. Macchendranth undertook severe tapasya to receive darshan of Adinath Bhagwan Shankar. Macchendranath sought Adinath Himself as his disciple. This promise was fulfilled through Sri Gorakshanath. Both Sri Macchendranath and Sri Gorakshanath were graced with the blessings of Bhagwan Sri Dattatreyaya.

Siddhas are ever-existent, beginningless and endless, the very form of Adinath, the Adi Siddha. Bhagwan Krishna in the Gita had also referred to the nature of Siddhas, immortal aspects of the divine in form, when he said, "Siddha naam Kapila Muni" (Among siddhas, I am Kapila Muni). The Hindu, Jain and Buddhist traditions all pay homage, one way or another, to the enlightened beings who are beyond birth and death, whose embodiment is by divine will. The Siddhas reveal Samadhi to mankind. My pranam to the Naun Nath Chaurasi Siddhas.

Sanyas is as old as human existence. Sanyasins uphold the value of tyaga or renunciation and tapasya or austerity as the path to knowledge of the Supreme. Bhagwan Shankaracharya was responsible for creating the orders of the Dasnam Sanyas to spread the message of Advaita Vedanta and for exemplifying the ideals of sanyas so that the highest teachings could filter through. Later, the Akhadas evolved to protect the sanyas traditions. Various sampradayas developed. The Dasavatars of Lord Vishnu are Nimitta - the Cause of Manifestation to fulfill a purpose, who appear in different ages to reveal the divine lila. Narayana remains continuously and in true and purest form, sanyasins are the Nitya Avatar of Narayana. Sanyasins are a continual reminder to mankind of the Divine, if we but choose to be reminded. Om Namoh Narayana.

To talk of Yoga, one must acknowledge the contribution of the great yogis, both known and unknown, who have been responsible for keeping Yoga alive in the hearts of man. The spiritual energy of Yoga is readily glimpsed through practicing yogis. My deepest acknowledgement to the many great yogis who have imparted their knowledge, shared their energy, caused the manifestation of thought vibrations, while they have continued to remain in tapasya. That is Yoga.

Om Shanti, Shanti, Shantihi.

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Editor: Romola Butalia       (c) India Travelogue. All rights reserved.