Religion is not separate from yoga philosophy and the science of the Self. If the Self is an established fact, and the knowledge of this fact is true, then the path to reach the Self is also true and established. That established path is religion.
Last month we discussed the path of the yoga sutras of Patanjali. We found that each new discovery of our Truth allows us to see a larger picture, and each larger picture shows us subtler thoughts to be shed in order to realize Universal Consciousness. Once the mind is able to function in Universal Consciousness, completely freed of the false and imaginary perception of the Self, the mind begins to flow toward wisdom, and the realization of freedom, liberation of the mind.
Freedom of the mind shows us that we are not merely a physical body and that the ultimate goal is not a personal, but a universal experience. It follows that, our conduct in life is preparation for this universal experience, and this is where religion has historically shown us a path.
How do we conduct ourselves in order to prepare for the universal experience?
The world’s most popular religions each define a “Code of Conduct,” a list of Dos and Don’ts that outline how an individual can act in order to connect with a higher power. In yoga, we practice the Yamas and the Niyamas to govern our conduct.
For example, the 4th Niyama called Svadhyaya, or Self-study, advises exploration and contemplation of the true self by reading the scriptures and reflecting on our thoughts and actions. In comparison, Ramadan is an Islamic tradition that encourages self-study. Ramadan reminds us to learn about ourselves, to read scriptures, and to exercise restraint.
By contemplating our true self, we strengthen the discernment between the things that create our false self and those that make up our True Self. Shedding the statements of the false self such as “I am angry, I am in pain, I am a physical body, I should do this, or I should do that” and then we can embrace statements such as “I am this energy, I am Universal Truth, I am free”
This month as Ramadan begins, let’s take action to study ourselves. Read something each day that will help deepen your own yoga practice and move you closer towards the Self whether it’s a traditional text, a blog, a book, or a poem. Then keep a journal and write down your actions, thoughts, and experiences throughout the month. The practice of taking a proverbial step back to observe and question our actions can eventually allow us to disentangle ourselves from those aspects of our lives that are harmful towards our wellbeing. As with anything worth doing, it isn’t easy, but it’s well worth the effort and dedication.
Yamas Ahimsa is the practice of non-violence, which includes physical, mental, and emotional violence towards others and the self. Satya (truthfulness) urges us to live and speak our truth at all times. Asteya (non-stealing) is best deAined as not taking what is not freely given. Brahmacharya (right use of energy) states that when we have control over our physical impulses of excess, we attain knowledge, vigor, and increased energy. Aparigraha (non-coveting) urges us to let go of everything that we do not need, possessing only as much as necessary.
Niyamas Shaucha (puriAication) is the practice of cleansing the body and the mind to become pure. Samtosha (contentment) is not craving for what we do not have as well as not coveting the possessions of others. Tapas (asceticism) is a yogic practice of intense self-discipline and attainment of will power. Svadhyaya (self-study) is the ability to see our true divine nature through the contemplation of our life’s lessons and through the meditation on the truths revealed by seers and sages. Ishvara Pranidhana (devotion) is the dedication, devotion, and surrender of the fruits of one’s practice to a higher power.
Baddha Virabhadrasana Humble Warrior is a forward bending posture that improves flexibility in the hips, legs, shoulders and back. This pose puts you in a position where you are not looking around the room and instead you are encouraged to focus only on yourself. As the focus is drawn inward we also simulate bowing to the divine.
Yogic Texts • Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras • The Hatha Yoga Pradipika • The Upanishads • The Dhammapada • The Bhagavad Gita