Inspiration is precious, whenever it presents itself. Guruji’s life story, his practice, his teachings, and his pithy sayings will continue to stimulate us to aspire and study. Now that he no longer graces us in this material plane, we can circle around his words and works to reflect on his Sadhana and the pointers he left along the way. Guruji was very prolific. While his seminal books, Light on Yoga and Light on Prānāyāma are very pragmatic, many other works are filled with imagery and verge on being poetic. How else can one describe an experience that is intangible and transcendent? Left with a goldmine of material, we begin to revel in the meaning behind Guruji’s writings.
In this presentation, Patxi Lizardi (Madrid), Birjoo Mehta (Mumbai), Zubin Zarthoshtimanesh (Mumbai) and Eddie Marks (Hawaii) shared their musings on three of Guruji’s quotes. I will post a summary of each over the next few days. The first of Guruji’s quotes considered was:
“Yoga is not a religion but the science of religion which makes you understand your religion better.”
Patxi opened with a very personal story of his quest “to feel the absolute close to his inner being”. At an early age he entered the seminary, only to turn his back on organized religion several years later. He began practicing yoga earnestly in his twenties, and realized that he was gradually being transformed. What changed? He wondered. “My sense is that the aspiration to become a better person and the aspiration towards infinity is engraved in the center of the heart, as if it is a remembrance of the primary unity inscribed in the heart.” Mystics understand this, he noted.
All cultures recognize or embrace some form of the numinous or sacred realm of experience. Man has pondered these questions since the beginning of time, and it is not surprising that this question about yoga pursued Guruji throughout his life. Guruji was a deeply devoted and religious person, but he understood that religiousness of the heart and the expression through organized religion and society are often not the same.
In Astadala Yogamala vol 6, pg 168, Guruji says: “the practice of yoga is a guide that leads man to a higher level then where he is.” Patxi continued with Astadala Yogamala, vol 2 pg 45: “honest, sincere, intensive and intelligent practice makes one ascend the ladder of realization. In the true sense this becomes a religious life.” Yoga prepares the ground for an experience of a religious being and gives a depth to understand religiousness, Patxi explained.
There are two kinds of religious experience, he continued. There is the realization of the self, where there is no particular form of worship. One the other side, the practice is a particular form of relationship with a particular God. Yoga, he explained, enables us to connect with the religious attitude, the deepest part inside each of us that enables everyone to understand their religion even better.
In these days Guruji’s statements are crucial. “Yoga is not a religion in the sense that you ask, but it embraces everything in life.” “Yoga is a universal religion.” “You are seeking the truth, and I am seeking the truth. It is universal as long as you do not color it. Let yoga be a religion of humanity.”
Patxi’s presentation showed the depth of his life long quest to realize, in his words, the unity inscribed in the heart. Sutra 35 in the third chapter of the Yoga Sutras says that one understands the nature of consciousness by contemplating the heart. Perhaps the heartbeat of the religious experience referred to by mystics and poets is the “ground of being common” to one and all.