The concept of yoga practice is far broader and deeper than is commonly imagined; it includes much more than rhythmic body movement and breath regulation. I suggest a rather larger conception of yoga practice, one that is at the same time more in keeping with the thought of the existing world and our great spiritual traditions of the past.
First, the practice of yoga begins with the awareness that there is something more, the awareness that the phenomenal world, the surface appearance of things, is not all there is. There is something more, something deeper, and something more real, something of which the phenomenal world is but a peripheral manifestation. Ideas about the nature of this something vary widely, of course. Buddha spoke of waking up from sleep, Ramana Maharishi set enquiry as to ‘Who am I ?’, Nisargadatta came to exclamation of ‘I am That’, Immanuel Kant of the noumenal world, Carl Jung of the collective consciousness, Each one was trying to express an awareness of something more. In the end, ofcourse, adequate expression is never found, nor is an adequate concept of the something more. But yoga practice has always begun with the awareness, sometimes clear and vivid, sometimes only vague, that something is always there.
The practice must begin, secondly, with a desire to listen carefully enough with one’s whole being, in order to know, see, and meet the something more. The practice must begin with desire, the desire that the phenomenal world may become extinct and that true Being may shine through. This is in fact, one function of yoga practice; to touch the deepest currents of Being. Another is to learn to live in those deep currents. If those currents of Being are purely and only external to the self, then the work would involve looking all things outside oneself. But those deep currents are within, as our great spiritual traditions have recognized. For this reason, yoga strongly encourages us to look within, to meet the depths of Being within. And yet, this cannot be emphasized too much, yoga is not merely a matter of looking within, it a matter of being. It is not simply a style of doing something with the body or looking within, as one might use one sense to explore the moon, another sense to hear a lecture, and another to perceive his inner being. Rather, it is a question of engaging one’s whole self, so that every layer of being is involved in the world, the physical, the sensory, the emotional, the ideational, the intellectual and every other faculty. Yoga practice is a style of being.
Just as physical exercise is a means towards the end of health and fuller aliveness, so is awareness a means towards the end of spiritual aliveness and fullness of being. On this earth, we distinguish between the two and consider that the end is more important than the means. One thinks that the end is the main thing and demands that he reaches the end. One is not eternally responsible for whether he reaches his goal within this world of time. But without exception, he is eternally responsible for the kinds of means he uses. In this sense, yoga practice is a means that must be practiced with utmost care, for it is a matter of the first importance. And if it is to be done well, it must be practiced as a way of being befitting one divine.
A real pilgrimage is made when you start your journey inward and look far within.
Hari Om Tat Sat.