Articles

Eight Steps to Enlightenment

On Yoga Day Sri Anish shares with Life Positive Magazine that there is much more to yoga than performing a series of contorted poses. It is a way of life and a means to achieve ultimate peace.

India is the cradle of human civilization. This land has given many gifts and has contributed much towards human wellbeing and, undoubtedly, the science of yoga is one of the greatest gifts from India to the whole

of humanity. It is a matter of great pride that, in December 2014, the UN proclaimed June 21 as International Day of Yoga.

But there are a few questions that we must ask ourselves. Do we know what yoga really is? Do we know about the tremendous power of yoga? Are we harnessing it well? Are we integrating yoga into our daily lives? Do we see it in its totality or just one part of it? Is yoga transformational for us? Do we see it as an activity or as a lifestyle?

If you do a Google search for the word 'yoga,' you’ll find that the first few hundred or thousand images that Google throws up will be of people in all kinds of complex body postures called 'asanas.' To most, this is yoga—the ability and flexibility to move and maintain your body in complex postures. But is yoga only about

postures? You may be surprised to know that asanas form just one small aspect of yoga.

Yoga was introduced over 3,000 years ago when Maharishi Patanjali compiled the Yoga Sutras. He wrote 196 sutras (rules), and compiled them into four padas (chapters): Samadhi Pada, Sadhana Pada, Vibhuti Pada, and Kaivalya Pada. And, out of these 196 sutras, there are only three on asanas!

I’m not sharing these facts to dilute the importance of asanas but to expand your perception of the transformational power of yoga.

'Yoga' means 'to unite'.

This world of multiplicity is made up of duality. It is described as Purush and Prakriti, Shiva and Shakti, masculine & feminine, or yin and yang. These are polar opposites, typical examples being white and black, light and darkness, and knowledge and ignorance. This world, including us, is made up of these polarities. We are ignorant about a few things and knowledgeable about others, but we feel as ‘one’ being. Our days are full of light, and nights, full of darkness, but we call it ‘one day.’ So, there is ‘oneness’ hidden behind these apparent dualities.

Yoga is a way of life, a science, a mystery, and a step-by-step practice to integrate all polarities and unite all opposites into oneness.

Yoga is about joining knowledge with ignorance and darkness with light. Yes, ignorance is like darkness, and knowledge is light. What happens when you join both of them? Simple. When you join darkness with light, darkness is no more. Only light remains! And light means knowledge— illumination of the mind.

Yoga is a way of life, a science, a mystery, and a step-by-step practice to integrate all polarities and unite all opposites into oneness. Yoga is about joining knowledge with ignorance and darkness with light.

Yoga in practical life

Yoga is not a philosophy nor a religion. Yoga is practical, and it has a deep impact on our day-to-day life. Let’s look at yoga from this perspective. No matter what stage of our life we are at, all of us want to accomplish, acquire, and experience certain things in life. We all have certain aspirations, and we all want to experience life in its fullness through their

fulfilment.

These aspirations can be

  • Physical (of the body—shape, wellness, strength, endurance. etc.)
  • Mental or emotional (of the intellect— clarity, focus, confidence, positivity, etc.)
  • Financial (career, earning, possessions, security, etc.)
  • Social (status, relationships, sense of contribution, etc.)
  • • Spiritual (love, peace, happiness, moksha (liberation) etc.)

Yoga was introduced over 3,000 years ago when Maharishi Patanjali compiled the Yoga Sutras. He wrote 196 sutras (rules), and compiled them into four padas (chapters): Samadhi Pada, Sadhana Pada, Vibhuti Pada, and Kaivalya Pada. And, out of these 196 sutras, there are only three on asanas!

Let’s take an example of a working woman who has an aspiration to become the CEO of her company. She keeps thinking about it. But will it happen only by wishful thinking? Or let’s say you are sitting in Delhi and you want to go to New York. Will it happen just by wishful thinking? No. We would need to follow a certain process: apply for a visa, state the purpose of travel and convince the authorities, and prepare a whole lot of

documentation. Likewise, everything in life requires preparation.

You must be thinking, We were talking about yoga, so, what is the role of yoga in this?

As I said earlier, yoga is practical, and it can enhance our day-to-day life experience. Thousands of years ago, when sage Patanjali propounded the knowledge of yoga for the wellbeing of humans, he created eight steps of yoga, known as Ashtanga Yoga. If we follow these eight steps, we can achieve anything we want in

life. In fact, they act like an inner preparation to empower and tune ourself to our life’s highest purpose. With yoga, nothing remains as wishful thinking; everything becomes achievable. And the higher we go in yoga, the more liberated, expanded, and blissful we start to become.

Now, let’s take another practical scenario. Let’s say you want to start getting up at 5 a.m. to go to the gym. Although you want it to happen, your mind throws a hundred tantrums every morning. So, what’s really happening? Your mind is not listening to you. While you want to build a daily morning schedule, your mind just doesn’t listen. It seems that the mind has its own agenda; it is not in control or in absolute sync with you. There are very few people who can claim that their minds are in their total control. If your mind is not in control, will you be able to put all your attention and energy into something that you want to achieve?

Forget achieving anything, this untamed mind doesn’t even allow you to experience life fully. Even when you go to your favourite restaurant to eat your choicest meal, while you are eating, your mind is engaged in random thoughts or conversation. It constantly distracts you, and in that process, you only taste the first few

bites and the rest becomes mechanical. This is the nature of an untamed mind—to dwell in distractions and confusion.

Here, Patanjali comes to our rescue. He gave us these eight steps to tame the mind and experience life in its absolute abundance. Look at these eight steps carefully, and as you start to practise them, your sense of purpose, mental clarity, energy levels, confidence, self-will, physical and emotional well-being, happiness

quotient, and spiritual wisdom will start to expand.

1. Yama (Value codes of life)

Yama comprises some basic yet very essential value codes of life. It allows us to develop right understanding and behavioral conduct, and teaches us how to treat others and the world around us. There are five yamas: I will not hurt anybody unnecessarily, I will be truthful in all my conducts, I will not take anything that

doesn’t belong to me, I will hold my desires, and I will not possess more than what is needed.

2. Niyama (Self-discipline)

Niyama is a set of self-disciplinary codes that help in building a strong daily foundation. There are five niyamas: keeping the body clean and pure, being content, building endurance, self-study, and developing dedication.

3. Asana (Stabilizing the body to bring mental equilibrium)

Asana deals with developing bodily stability, flexibility, strength, and balance. This allows us to be in total control of our body and create excellent body-mind harmony.

4. Pranayama (Breath control and focus)

Every thought and emotion can be controlled if we know how to work with our breath, and Pranayama helps us build this control. It also enhances our ability to focus on the breath.

5. Pratyahara (Withdrawal of senses)

Most of the time, our senses are not in our control. Giving in to our senses weakens our mental capacities and will power. Pratyahara teaches us to restrain and withdraw our senses. It is a great step towards building enhanced mental strength.

6. Dharana (To keep an object in your focus)

Dharana helps in developing single-pointed focus, which builds sharpness of mind. It is an essential practice to bring the scattered mind to one-pointed attention.

7. Dhyana (Meditation)

Dhyana is an essential practice to declutter the mind. It helps by silencing all noises in the mind and creates a peaceful inner space. The mind becomes powerfully intuitive with the regular practice of meditation.

8. Samadhi (Breaking the barrier)

Samadhi is the last stage where one is able to break all barriers of mental noise and conditioning. Where there are no more illusions, the truth of life reveals itself, and one is firmly established in deep peace.

This is complete yoga, which removes all physical and mental suffering and conditioning, and expands the boundaries of all perceptions. Anyone who follows these eight steps of yoga as taught by Maharishi Patanjali becomes empowered to experience life in its fullness. All aspirations become achievable to the one whose mind is tamed with yoga.

May we all be established in this highest yoga.

Om Tat Sat, Sri Anish

You can also check out this interview in Life Positive Magazine in June 2022 edition.

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“महत्वाकांक्षा में अगर सर्व कल्याण जुड़े तभी वह अर्थ की तरफ ले जाता है, अन्यथा वह अनर्थ का मार्ग है"

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