Archives for posts with tag: b. k. s. iyengar

In my early days, many people tried to tempt me to become a sannyasin. I said, ‘No, I will marry. I will see the struggles and the upheavals of the world, and I will practice.’ So I am an old soldier. I have six children and still I practice yoga. I have not abandoned my responsibilities towards other people. I can live in life as a witness without being part and parcel of the action.

I did not neglect my practice, nor did I neglect my family. The problem with many of us is ambition. You want to perform the asanas as you see me perform them, but you forget that I have been practicing yoga for more than fifty years, whereas you are just beginning. An ambitious or impatient approach will bring you illness–physical illness or mental illness. So treat the practice of yoga as part of your life, allowing it space within your normal activities.

As I have said, there is a culmination in self-realization. The end goal is the sight of the soul. If one had no end in view, one would not do the work. We can reach the infinite, but we must do so with the finite means at our disposal. Anything done spasmodically has only a spasmodic effect. If you only practice spasmodically, you cannot expect to maintian the sensitivity of intelligence nor the maturity in the effort required to progress towards the ultimate goal. You must cultivate a certain discipline so that you can maintain that creative sensitivity. Instead of working as and when you feel, it is better to work regularly every day in order to maintain the quality of the effects.

Do not have it in your mind that you should have something extraordinary to show to other people. If you put a seed in the ground today and say, ‘In ten days I want fruit,’ does it come? The fruit comes naturally, does it not? When the tree is ready to bear fruit, it comes. Even if you say, ‘I want it, I want it!’ it does not come any sooner. But when you think that the tree is not going to give you any fruit at all, all of a sudden you see the fruit grow. It has to come naturally, not artificially. So work, and let it come or let it not come, but continue your practice. Then, even if you have a family life and family commitments, there are no problems.

Why is an old man fond of sex? Why does his age not come to his mind at all? If he sees a young girl, his mind will be wandering, even though he may have no physical capacity. What is the state of his mind? He would like to possess her, would he not? But ask him to do a little yoga, or something to maintain his health. ‘Oh, I am very old,’ he says! So the mind is the maker and the mind is the destroyer. You must tell the destructive side of the mind to keep quiet–then you will learn.

At a certain age the body does decay, and if you do not do anything, you are not even supplying blood to those areas where it was being supplied before. By performing asanas we allow the blood to nourish the extremities and the depths of the body so that the cells remain healthy. But if you say, ‘No, I am old,’ naturally the blood circulation recedes. If the rains don’t come, there is drought and famine, and if you don’t do yoga–if you don’t irrigate the body–then when you get drough r famine in the body as incurable diseases, you just accept them and prepare to die.

Why should you allow the drought to come when you can irrigate the body? If you could not irrigate it at all, it would be a different matter. But when it is possible to irrigate, you should surely do so. Not to do so allows the offensive forces to increase and the defensive forces to decrease. Disease is an offensive force; inner energy is a defensive force. As we grow, the defensive strength gets less and the offensive strength increases. That is how diseases enter into our system.

A body which carries out yogic practices is like a fort which keeps up its defensive strength so that the offensive strength in the form of diseases will not enter into it through the skin. Which do you prefer? Yoga helps to maintain the defensive strength at an optimum level, and that is what is known as health.

I am sometimes asked whether it is necessary for a yoga practitioner to believe in God. My reply is very simple: ‘If you don’t believe in God, do you believe in your own existence? Since you believe in your own existence, that means you want to improve yourself for the betterment of your life. Then do so, and perhaps it may lead you to see the higher light. So there is no need for you to believe in God, but you have to believe in yourself.’

This very experience of living wants you to live as a better person than you are. That is the divine spark of faith. From that, all the rest will follow.

Thee is a tremendous difference between belief and faith. I may believe what Christ has said, but that does not necessarily mean that I follow him. When I was suffering from tuberculosis and got healthy through yoga, I did not believe that yoga was going to cure me. It cured me. That gave me faith.

Faith is not belief. It is more than belief. You may believe something and not act on it, but faith is something you experience it. You cannot ignore it. If you ignore it, it is not faith. Belief is objective–you may take it or leave it. But faith is subjective–you cannot throw it out.

That you are existing yourself is faith. You do not believe that you are living. Your very existence is faith that you are living. But why are you living? To be a better person. Otherwise, you can just die! Let me see you die! Go and fall in the ocean! Why do you not want to fall? Because you want to live. Why? That is what you must find out. That is faith.

Now, can you differentiate what is spiritual from what is sensual?

When the parents are spiritually united sexually, the first child is a divine child. It is a pure flower of pure love and pure communion. But after the first child,  can you maintain the same communion as you had in that first flowering of your love? If that love can be maintained throughout your life, it is a divine love. If the love changes, and if the wife or the husband splashes out on somebody else, like when you splash water, then you must understand whether that is a true spiritual love, or a sensual love. It has to be experienced. It is subjective. Each one can feel whether it is only a sensual pleasure, or a spiritual divine communion of love between two people.

There is a moral concept in the philosophy of yoga which has led to a great deal of misunderstanding. This is the fourth aspect of yama, known as brahmacharya. According to the dictionary, ‘brahmacharya’ means celibacy, religious study, self-control and chastity.

All the treatises on yoga explain that the loss of semen leads to death and its retention to life. Patanjali also emphasises the importance of continence of body, word and mind. He explains that the preservation of semen produces valour and vigour, strength and power, courage and bravery, energy and the elixir of life; hence his injunction to preserve it through a concentrated effort of will.

Nevertheless, the philosophy of yoga is not intended only for celibates. Nearly all the yogis and sages of ancient India were married and had families. The sage Vasistha, for example, had  a hundred children and was nevertheless considered a brahmachari because he did not seek only pleasure in sexual relations.

Brahmacharya is thus not a negative concept, nor an enforced austerity, nor a prohibition. Actually, the sages who were married would determine by a study of the stars what was an auspicious day to have sexual relations, so their progeny would be virtuous and spiritually minded. This discipline was considered to be a part of brahmacharya.

Today, in the name of freedom, everyone behaves like a libertine, but the life of a libertine is not true freedom. The five principles of yama constitute social ethics. Each individual should observe a certain discipline within society. Only freedom combined with discipline is true freedom.

For me, brahmacharya is happy married life, since the married man or woman learns to love their partner both with the head and the heart, whereas the so-called brahmachari, who claims to be celibate, may love nobody but cast a lustful eye on whoever he or she might meet.

– B. K. S. Iyengar, The Tree of Yoga

According to Indian tradition, society is divided into four categories or castes known as brahmin (the priesthood), kshatriya (the warrior caste), vaishya (the merchant caste) and shudra (the labourers). Even if today these categories seem to be disappearing as social divisions, they remain present unconsciously and represent different qualities of being which have meaning for us no matter what our profession or place in society may be.

How do these categories apply to the discipline of yoga? A beginner must work hard and sweat in order to learn. This is the quality of the shudra. When he has become an experienced student, he will express himself by teaching to earn his living through yoga. This is the state of mind of the merchant or trader and so represents the quality of the vaishya. Then he will enter into competition with his colleagues–maybe he will even teach with feelings of pride and superiorty. This reveals the martial chiaracter of the kshatriya. At the final stage, the seeker penetrates deeply into the essence of yoga to draw from it the nectar of spiritual realisation. This is the religious fervour of yoga, and when one acts on the basis of this feeling, one’s practice of yoga is that of a brahmin.

These four divisions occur in many other areas. Thus, the life of the human being, considered as a hundred years, is divided into four consecutive twenty-five year periods called ashramas. These are respectively brahmacharya, the phase of general and religious education; garhasthya, or life in the home; vanaprastha, or preparation for renunciation of family activities; and sannyasa, or detachment from the affairs of this world and attachment to the service of the Lord.

The sages of ancient times also distinguished four aims of life, or purusharthas, and recommend the pursuit of one of the four aims of life during each of the four ashramas. The four aims of life are dharma, the science of ethical, social and moral obligations; artha, the acquisition of worldly goods; kama, the pleasures of life; and moksa, freedom or felicity.