Dear disciples and yoga practitioners,
With my disciples I went on a few Tirtha Yatras in Varanasi, Kumbh Mela, Allahabad and Himalayas. And today, having returned to the ashram in Vilnius, I want to share my thoughts about the foundation and origin of yoga, its popularity and spread in the entire world.
Yoga is a science that comes from yogic tradition in ancient India, and is intended not just for India but for the entire humanity. It is a precise science about matter and consciousness, and a perfect practical system of self-development that merges the universe, human body, mind and spirit into one.
Yoga practice does not require people to renounce their secular, everyday life and obligations. However, to this day there are yogis, who are hermits, ascetics, who have given vows and are striving for the highest aim with devotion. I was observing my disciples and how they were interacting with hermit and ascetic yogis. And at the same time I was realising how much yoga connects us all, aiming for a common goal, and that spending time together strengthens our determination, courage, solidity, faith and patience even more. This observation makes it obvious that yoga is a practice of human’s life, which is here for everyone – a hermit ascetic, a person, who performs his duties and lives in the city bustle, a young one, an old one, a healthy one, as well as an ill one. It is the science of life, suited for everyone. It is universal and does not contradict any genuine religious belief, any culture, race, etc.
Even though these days yoga is very popular in the whole world, yoga is an invaluable gift that has been preserved by yogic tradition in ancient India. This practice unites the mind, body, thoughts and actions, and helps to maintain harmony between a human being and nature. Nowadays, people often misunderstand what yoga practice is about. The essence of yoga practice lies not in physical postures or beauty of the body, but rather in discovering the unity with one’s own self and creation. Yoga teaching is a perfect system of self-development, which transforms all aspects of one’s personality and lifestyle, develops awareness, helps to adjust and adapt to various life changes, free oneself from various tensions and stay harmonious.
Archeologists have discovered remains of ancient Indus Valley Civilization, which started around 3000 years B.C. and included contemporary North-West part of India and part of Pakistan. When discussing the origin of yoga, we must mention these remains, which have been found in the locations of Indus Valley, in the form of yogis’ figures, sitting in yogic postures. The most famous figure is sitting in a classical meditative yoga pose with its arms extended on the knees. This proves that yoga, despite of its literary (written) origin, has been practiced for over four thousand years in Indian subcontinent. So, yoga teaching existed many thousands of years ago, even before various religions and belief systems emerged. In yoga tradition, Shiva is considered to be the first Yogi, Adi Yogi, and the first Guru, Adi Guru. Many thousands of years ago, in Himalayas, Shiva passed on his absolute knowledge to sages, who were aiming for liberation, devoted to ascesis. These sages passed on the glorious teaching of Shiva in different parts of the world, such as Asia, Middle East, Northern Africa and South America.
Contemporary scientists, who are interested in the origin of yoga, have discovered certain aspects of yoga teaching and close parallels between ancient cultures in the entire world. Nevertheless, an authentic system of yoga was recorded and preserved by yogic tradition to this day in India. It is considered to be an eternal cultural heritage of Indus-Saraswati Valley Civilization. This civilization existed around 3 thousand years B.C. It has been proven that yoga was the reason for material and spiritual prosperity of people living in this civilization at that time. Petrified remains and figures that have been found in the ruins of this civilization, portray aspects of the yoga practice. Also, imprints of certain deities testify that yoga was practiced in this civilization. We can discover the influence of yogic teaching in the traditions of other cultures as well. Even though yoga was practiced many thousands of years ago, in a written form this science was recorded only in the 1st century by the sage Patanjali. In this Sanskrit scripture Patanjali recorded the system of classical yoga, which had been passed on by the word of mouth, from one generation to another, by a Teacher to a disciple.
Nowadays, millions of people who practice yoga in the entire world experience the benefits of the yoga practice, so yoga is quickly gaining popularity these days too. No one has any more doubts that yoga practice helps people to maintain their physical and mental health as well as a harmonious lifestyle. Life of a contemporary human being is full of stress, tension, desire and constant rush. If a person practices yoga and follows its principles, fosters virtues, he learns to withstand hardships of everyday life without losing stability, concord, inner peace and calmness.
A yoga practitioner should know what creates a foundation for a successful practice:
- Finding a true yoga Teacher.
- Following Teacher’s instructions.
- Practicing in a calm, peaceful and clean environment.
- Trying to relax the body and release mental tension during the practice.
- Keeping the body and the mind clean.
- Eating in moderation.
- Always beginning the yoga practice with calming oneself down and expressing gratitude to the Creator.
- Performing all yogic practices consciously, slowly and with attention, observing the body and the breath.
- It is always important to consider one’s personal abilities, diseases and age.
- It is important to practice consistently and regularly. Otherwise, the result will not come.
- Remember that yoga practice requires discipline, will power, time and consistency. Progress takes place gradually, so the result of the practice manifests slowly, little by little. Practice becomes successful only when it is maintained throughout the course of life.
- Always remember that yogic techniques can be very simple and very complex, so it is important to have a true Teacher, who knows the sacred mystery of yoga and is able to pass on deeper knowledge of yoga practice gradually, as soon as you are able to receive them.
- Develop your virtues, patience, attentiveness, discipline and form a noble aim of your practice. This will help you grow.
Until our next meeting,
Mai Ram Devi
28th of September, 2019
(YOGA PRACTICE ALWAYS HELPS PEOPLE FIND THEMSELVES…)
Dear disciples and yoga practitioners,
Usually we tend to be in a rush and try to get as much as possible from the outside. By acting this way we lose a connection with that which is inside us. Yoga practice does not require us to give up the outside world and the material manifestations of the world. Yoga teaching occurs through the purification of body and mind, by establishing oneself in the knowing of the spirit.
Yoga practice takes us back to ourselves and helps us rediscover the wisdom, which exists in us. There is no one who starts practicing yoga totally from the ground zero. It is our karmic experience from the previous lives that brings us to yoga teachings.
My dear disciples and all yoga practitioners,
After returning from the Himalayas, I would like to share my experience and considerations from my last Tirtha Yatra with You. Yatra is a journey into ourselves, into our true “Self”. Tirtha means visiting sacred places and a practice of self-purification. Tirtha is a sacred place, where the mind is cleansed from the untrue intentions and desires. The practice of mind purification occurs if a person maintains concentration and focus on the true “Self”. For this to happen, it is necessary to practice vairagya – non-attachment and renunciation of self-judgment. When vairagya completely fills up the practitioner, Tirtha becomes tapas, or asceticism, that opens up the knowing of one’s true self. For the practice of Tirtha Yatra to be beneficial, one must be patient, determined and accepting of all kinds of opposition and difficult psychological states that arise. The practitioner should not give into impressions during Tirtha Yatra, and control the states of his/her mind the whole time, clearly understanding the goal of the journey. Tirtha Yatra is a journey back home that takes us back to ourselves.
During Tirtha Yatra I was observing disciples’ states the whole time: fears, anger, doubts that distract from the goal, wishes, thoughts about betrayal, thoughts about how everything could be so much better than it actually is, and the constant inclination to make judgments. All these states are obstructions of the mind that rise up to the surface from one’s depths during Tirtha Yatra.
Disciples’ mental states required strict samyama, especial awareness, focus and constant concentration from me. Being aware of my own feelings and states of mind, I was able to remain detached from and not identify with disciples’ ever changing, unstable states of mind. This allowed me to remain an observer of disciples’ transformation. The state of Sat Chit Ananda and a constant gratefulness to my own Guru prevented me from losing the connection to the inner Sadhguru.
During Tirtha Yatra the real yoga teaching took place, the teaching that was not easy to accept. Humility and loyalty occur, acceptance is developed and the knowing is revealed only through sadhana. In my opinion, those, who were with me, have established themselves in the realization that the true yoga teaching comes not through ancient texts, asanas or some other practices, but is passed on by the Guru. Yoga teaching of such kind is real, useful and powerful, whereas in all other cases the knowing is useless and can be harmful. I was witnessing how my disciples, having refused all fake desires and all mind-distracting attachments, followed me and pursued Adi Nath Shiva’s blessing, which gifts us with the realization of one’s true nature.
So what have we brought back from Himalayas? I think, we all have been convinced that changing others is useless work. It is only possible to change ourselves, our own minds and reactions. By observing and changing ourselves, we develop the right understanding towards others. Finally, we establish realization that only the interpretations of our own mind forces us to suffer or be excessively or forcefully joyful. By working on our mind, controlling it, we get an insight that everything is connected. In fact, we begin to understand that trees, people, mountains, sky and everything that we see is Prana, which constantly moves and changes. Therefore, many events occur in life, but only our state of mind and awareness determine how they affect us.
I hope that in Tirtha Yatra we have learned to be more understanding, became calmer and resistant to emotional states, and today we are able to see a clearer view of our lives.
This Tirtha Yatra with the Guru was a tough sadhana, which showed to every single one of us that the only honorable use of one’s body is a pursuit of wisdom and perfection of consciousness.
Until our next meeting,
Mai Ram Devi
26th of June, 2015
(Concentration and attention)
Dear disciples and yoga practitioners,
I am leaving with my disciples for Tirtha Yatra, a journey through Himalayas in India. During this yatra we will be meditating (dhyana), aiming for the state of focused attention.
Focus of attention is a very important part of yoga practice.
I think that everyone would find it useful to realize what attention is and how it occurs during meditation.
This time I would like to discuss the concept of attention.
Let’s ponder – what is a state of calmness when there is chaos around us, what does it mean to live in a city surrounded by casual turmoil and still remain in harmony with nature, and in what way it is possible to not lose ourselves?
If we want to find answers to these questions, we have to understand the importance of attention. Attention is a specific state of focused consciousness, which cannot be compared to concentration. During meditation, please feel the subtle difference between attention and concentration.
For example, I voluntarily tell my consciousness to observe important things, or, I voluntarily tell myself that I must focus my attention on something important, or, by using will power, I regulate my thoughts, making myself concentrate on something important, pushing away all outside thoughts.
Do you think these or similar voluntary actions can develop focus of consciousness and the state of attention? By contemplating on our own behavior we realize that voluntary behavior and forceful concentration is not the state of focused attention. Why? What happens when we consciously and voluntarily direct our mental activity to a meditation object? When the mental activity is being forcefully directed to an object, resistance takes place in our consciousness because we do not allow other thoughts to come up. Obviously, when there is resistance in the consciousness, a long-term state of focused attention is impossible. Focus of attention appears by itself, spontaneously, and this process does not require any efforts.
Therefore, we may sum up by saying that a voluntary process of focusing is a practice of concentration. Concentration is a short-term voluntary state of focusing the consciousness on an object, whereas attention is a long-term state of focused consciousness, which appears spontaneously, by itself.
It is impossible to develop focus of attention through efforts, beliefs, comparisons, assessments, achievements or punishing yourself. All these are forms of force, arising from fear. Fear is the reason why attention is not focused. Fear exists as long as there is disappointment and a need to be someone, become someone or achieve something.
By using will power we might learn to concentrate, but it is impossible to learn to focus our attention through voluntary behavior. We cannot learn to be free or get rid of fears through forceful voluntary behavior either. The state of focused attention is like the state of love, which appears spontaneously, when envy, conceit and selfishness disappear.
So, when seeking perfection, it is important to work on developing focus of attention rather than concentration. During concentration, the consciousness is being focused on a meditation object using voluntary efforts but this process takes place for a short period of time. Whereas the state of focused attention manifests as a spontaneous process, not limited by time.
I sincerely wish everyone to meditate on the state of focused attention.
Until our next meeting,
Mai Ram Devi
21st of April, 2015