From a Person to a Presence
Of all the things in the world, of all the things that a human being can do, why yoga?
Everything that human beings can do is essentially an expression of who they are. Somebody sings a song, somebody dances, somebody writes a book, somebody paints a picture. Whatever else you do is an expression of who you are. You may be conscious enough, but still, everything that you say, everything you do, everything that comes out of you is essentially an expression of who you are. Yoga, in that way, is diametrically opposite to this because it is not an expression of who you are - it is about determining as to who you are. It is about determining what you want to be, changing the very fundamentals of one’s existence. Today, there is substantial medical and scientific evidence to show that the very fundamentals of your brain activity, your chemistry, even your genetic content can be changed by practicing different systems of yoga. This needed no confirmation because we have always witnessed this, but today there is scientific data to prove this.
So, yoga is not an expression of who you are, it is about determining the nature of who you wish to be. Changing the fundamental ingredients which have made you who you are. Yoga as a system needs much more involvement than any other things that we do, which are merely expressions of who we are. If you find full expression through any particular activity, it may also leave you somewhat transformed. If you cook with all your heart, some transformation may happen. If you sing with all your heart, some transformation may happen. If you dance with all your heart, some transformation may happen. But that is only a certain impact, because of absolute involvement in a particular activity. But essentially, that activity by nature is an expression of who you are, it is not determining the nature of who you are.
When we transform our activity, not as an expression of who we are - because who wants to find expression like this in the morning? (Gestures an asana, bending forward) Definitely not, isn’t it? So, it is not an expression. It is a method. It is a means, it is a technology through which you can change the shape of who you are - literally also, otherwise also, you can change the very shape of who you really are right now. That can be transformed because who you are right now as a person is a combination of things - genetic material, and before that the karmic substance that you carry - because of that you chose a certain womb. And since the moment that you are born, whatever kind of impressions that have gone into you in the form of a variety of experiences, situations, thoughts, emotions, relationships, associations, whatever else you have imbibed, all these things make you a certain kind of person.
When you say “I am a certain kind of person,” what you are saying is I have this kind of compulsion. When you say “I am this kind of person,” what you are saying is, this is the kind of compulsion that I identify myself with, so I am this kind of a person. People say “I am a morning person, I am an evening person.” What they mean is, “I cannot wake up in the morning, that means I am an evening person. I cannot stay awake in the evening, so I am a morning person.” Not only that, it is going far. Some are Blackberry people, some are Apple people; the world is getting divided in so many ways. They are not just instruments that you use and keep down, you keep getting identified with them. There are chapathi people, there are rice people, there are dosa people, there are idli people … all kinds.
What kind you are is essentially a certain type of compulsion. So, you set yourself into the process of yoga because you do not want to be this kind or that kind; you will be the kind that you are required to be in a particular moment. If it is morning, you are a morning person, if it is evening, you are an evening person. If you are not required to be a person, you are not a person. That is, you become flexible. This flexibility, to start with, you start working with your body. Afterwards, it should come to every aspect of your life - your physical structure, your psychological structures, your emotional structure, your karmic structure. Everything should become flexible, that it can be whatever it is required to be, it is not stuck being this way or that way.
Yoga as a process, method, technology and science is essentially to break the limitations of a certain concretization that happens which we call “personality.” To evolve from being a person to a presence. If you are a person, that means you have made a shell out of yourself. You formed a shell, within that shell only you can operate. If you break this shell, you will no more be a person but simply a presence - as life is, as God is, just a presence. If it can be encased in a shell, it becomes a person. Yoga means you are slowly working on making the shell thinner and thinner, more and more porous, that one day you can exist without a shell.
Essentially, in your experience, yoga means morning - why is the sadhana the way it is? All aspects of physicality are cyclical in the universe. Planets are going around the sun, the solar system is moving. Everything in the galaxy, in the cosmos, is cyclical. The more you are identified with your physical system, the more and more cyclical you are also. Your experiences are cyclical, the process of life is cyclical, if you watch carefully enough, even the situations that you face in life come in cycles.
Yoga means, on one level, to break the cycle of life; what is a circle right now we want to open it up and make it a straight line. If I say you are going in circles, what does it mean to you? You are not going anywhere. It just gives you an impression that you are going somewhere, but you are not really going anywhere, you are going through the same thing again and again. Yoga means to open up the circle and stretch it out like a straight line, that if you follow the line you go somewhere - you are not going around and around.
Many of you may have already experimented and noticed. If you have not, do not experiment because I will give you the results of the experiment right now. You might have been doing sadhana for two years, three years, five years. Stop your sadhana for three months, suddenly you will see so many compulsions that you never imagined were a part of you, which were long-time gone, suddenly they will all become part of you. A simple thing in the ashram is there are two meals, ten o’clock and seven o’clock. At least 90 percent of the people stick to this, there are another ten percent - their hands at least pick the worms and eat them up - something, a cockroach or whatever. Something crunchy they must eat. But those who are doing their sadhana properly, they eat in the morning and they do not think of food until evening. It does not occur because it is no more a compulsion.
A circle can also be described as a circus. If you become conscious, the whole thing looks like a circus. If you are not conscious, you can only see three feet in front of you; then it is all real. If you can see the whole circle of your life, suddenly it becomes like a circus. Once you realize it is a circus, you do not want to go through the circus again and again. Only if your vision is too limited, you can see only three feet in front of you, everything is real for you. If you open up and see the whole circle, the way you are going, it looks like a circus and definitely you do not want it to continue forever. You want to do something about it.
Editor’s Note: Isha Hatha Yoga programs are an extensive exploration of classical hatha yoga, which revive various dimensions of this ancient science that are largely absent in the world today. These programs offer an unparalleled opportunity to explore Upa-yoga, Angamardana, Surya Kriya, Surya Shakti, Yogasanas and Bhuta Shuddhi, among other potent yogic practices.