Divine consciousness that is eternal, omniscient and omnipresent and resides in each and every particle of the universe can be realized through the ancient, immortal science of yoga. Yoga stands above all dogmas and fanaticism. Yoga itself is love and bliss, pure and divine. It is the principle of balance and harmony in the entire universe, the principle through which Creation took place--the first movement of the divine consciousness as nada, sound. That is the power of yoga.
Yoga is the power which brings together and balances the five elements: earth, water, fire, air and ether or akasha. These five elements should be balanced in the human organism. When they are unbalanced, one feels much discomfort and becomes weak and ill. When we fall out of truth and oneness into duality, then we lose the balance and harmony of our existence. So balance means health, and health means to maintain our original and perfectly balanced condition.
Life, the whole universe, is changing every moment. Our body itself is changing all the time: from the state of embryo to that of the infant, to the little child, to the teenager, to the middle-aged person and finally to old age and death. We are swimming through the waves of life. Life sometimes is calm and peaceful for us, other times heavy storms are raging, and sometimes we have to pass through fire and flames. Still, day and night, every minute, we are proceeding toward our goal, whether we are aware of it or not. As every raindrop proceeds toward the ocean from which it has emerged, so also everyone of us will sooner or later return to our origin, the Cosmic Self. Yoga is the way to make our aim clear, accelerate our development and progress toward it.
Yoga consists of four branches that correspond to seekers' various dispositions. Bhakti yoga is the path of love and devotion for those who seek the Divine through worship and prayer. Karma yoga is the path of selfless action and service. Jnana yoga is the path of knowledge and wisdom through philosophy and discrimination between Reality and unreality. And raja yoga is the path of self-discipline and self-mastery through practice and meditation.
Practicing yoga requires a great deal of self-discipline and confidence. Yoga makes one independent and free. Those who think that the life of a yogi means to withdraw from the world and to neglect and renounce all material goods misunderstand the very idea of yoga. Yoga is a thoroughly practical way. It means to gain and preserve health in its whole meaning, physically, mentally, socially and spiritually. It also means to get and preserve independence and self-reliance in life, physically, mentally, emotionally as well as materially. In order to attain genuine insight, the aspirant needs to practice. He should learn to control his body and his mind in order to gain Self-Realization. Self-Realization means the reunion of the individual Self, atma, and the cosmic Self, Paramatma. In this way, we attain freedom and inner peace. Unless you practice, you will never realize what yoga means.
Yoga takes effect not only in the material world, but also in the astral worlds. It teaches us to master ourselves and our lives in every situation and in every sphere. In fact, it is the perfect way to God. But yoga is not a religion, nor a cult, nor any theory or set of dogmas. Yoga is Reality. It is the ultimate truth. Yoga is older than our planet. It has been guiding the process of life since the very beginning of the universe. In the last thousands of years, humans developed their intellect, and wise men and seers of India, called rishis, revealed the science and techniques of yoga practice. The Hindus are children of the rishis, who were the greatest seers, the highest thinkers and most civilized personalities of mankind. Hinduism is one of the most ancient spiritual ways with deep insight into the divine and great tolerance and acceptance toward other faiths. It is Sanatana Dharma.
No matter which part of the world a Hindu lives in, it is his or her prime duty to preserve and transmit these elevated thoughts, teachings and values of human life to their children. No matter how hard external pressures can be, one should never feel hesitant to keep to one's noble traditions and value system and maintaining these in the family and in the community. Each Hindu should be proud of his ancestors, who were open-minded, full of love and mercy. They were great believers and devotees of God, through which they achieved the highest knowledge and oneness of the Supreme.
Even Hindus who live in small communities or single families should not feel any need to, and should not under any circumstances, change their beliefs, their vegetarian lifestyle or noble ideals of ahimsa, tolerance and love for all living beings. They should observe their cultural festivals and spiritual events, because that is the only way to keep alive that precious heritage.
In order to maintain that spiritual way of living and to attain Self-Realization, it is advisable that not only Hindus, but all humans, follow the way of yoga. Yoga should not be lived separately from our daily lives. It should be practiced twenty-four hours a day according to the principles and regulations that were handed down to us by the ancient rishis. These universal and divine principles are: understand, forgive, be tolerant, love, serve, believe, worship, meditate and realize. Yoga will surely lead you to achieve the ultimate goal. That is, to become one with God.
PARAMAHANS SWAMI MAHESHWARANANDA, 51, based in Vienna, Austria, has spread the teachings of a long line of Rajasthan sannyasin yogis for 20 years in central Europe and now the world.