Dr. Vijai S Shankar MD.PhD.
14th November 2008
In the west yoga is well-known and has gained considerable popularity; it is presently doing good business. Yoga originated in India and has not lost its popularity ever since. Nobody knows when yoga began. It is thought to have been created by sages and not by ordinary man and, therefore, it has a spiritual glamour attached to its practice and is accepted as truth. It is the buzz word of high society and the thing to do and be found doing.
Could yoga really be a creation of the sages? A sage is an enlightened being, but would or could an enlightened being claim creation or doership? How could he, because an enlightened being is he who has realised that the world is illusory and therefore would never claim to have created anything, let alone yoga. An enlightened being may very well have done yoga, and it would appear as if he practises to observers, but not to an enlightened being. He realises that yoga happens to him as part of the singular movement, which is life, and that he does not do it. It happens to man too, but he believes that he does it. It happens in life so that man understands that it happens to him.
Yoga is believed to promise man youth, healthy life and is believed to calm things down in the mind as well. It is practised worldwide and some vouch for its efficacy to calm the human mind. Some spiritualists have taken yoga a step further to proclaim that it has a beneficial effect on depression and other psychological disorders, in controlling blood pressure and reducing the progression of diabetes and other physical maladies. It is even advised as an alternative to medical therapy or as a preventive measure. Of course, every man would like such a cure and that too as it does not cost a penny. But are such claims true? How could they be when the world, as the sages proclaim, is illusory? Yoga sounds like the cure from God to man’s ill health.
There are different types of yoga and each type emphasises its specific beneficial effects on the body and the mind. Some types are harder and some simple, but what is yoga and how did it start? It is age-old and this is well known. The exact dates are not accurately documented and cannot be either. It would have been present much before written language was born. Verbal communication was initially the method of transferring knowledge and later, when alphabets came to be known, languages were born and knowledge began to be written down. Therefore, the exact date of the evolution of yoga cannot be determined accurately.
In ancient times, man lived surrounded by thick vegetation and this was the sophistication of life at that point. Since life sophisticates every moment, the process demanded that man’s body performs agile movements of walking and running. The body needed to be strong yet supple. It was undergoing sophistication to make his movements finer rather than crude.
So, life began to stretch man’s body, make his muscles exercise and the ligaments of his body more flexible. This movement of the body came to be known in the mind as yoga: as part of the process of sophistication life was transforming man’s bodily movements. Yoga is an ancient form of exercise used only to keep man able-bodied for the tasks of ancient days. He needed to be agile to stay alive; he had to escape from the wild animals lest he become a prey to them. He needed to run as well as to catch his prey. So, yoga was more of a necessity in ancient days. It has now become a fashion for models, celebrities and a show for the affluent society.
Life is a singular movement of light; it always has been and always will be. This movement is beginningless and endless. Hence, man never could have done yoga before and is not doing it even now. Yoga happened to him before and it is happening to him even to this day. Every action is a label in the mind; a label is a word and not an actuality in life. Time is absent in life and, therefore, an act is not possible in life. Even a word does not exist in life or the mind, let alone yoga. In life a word is an audible sound and in the mind a thought is a subtle sound - and so is yoga.
Yoga was and is an ancient form of movement which has prevailed. The present-day form of exercises, such as different aerobics and gymnastics, is nothing but sophisticated yoga. These exercises do not carry a spiritual glamour, for man believes present-day exercises are developed by man and not by a sage. This cannot be true for man is not the doer, never has been and never will be. Yoga is, however, a movement of life and not an act done by man. Therefore, present-day exercises are a sophisticated movement of life and not acts done by man.
Man is not the doer and this realisation is the cornerstone of self-realisation or enlightenment. If man was really not the doer, how could he do yoga? If yoga were real, then the world could not be illusory and this would not only prove that the enlightened are wrong - the mind and man would be proven real. Then life could not be timeless and thoughtless. But science has proved that all life’s occurrences happen in a timeless zone, so the proclamation of the enlightened beings that man is not the doer has been proven right.
Ancient scriptures, enlightened beings and their messages all preach that the ego is false and does not exist as a reality, but only as an illusory manifestation of sound, and that it is the ego which desires, wishes or wants to do, including yoga. If the ego were false, would not yoga or anything that the ego thinks it does, has done and wishes to do be false? It certainly requires it to be or else the ancient scriptures and the enlightened beings would be proven wrong. The moment the ego thinks it has done any act, it is strengthened, and the more so if it is a spiritual act, such as yoga. The fundamental message in any field of spirituality required to attain enlightenment is, literally, ‘the ego should die’. Though man wishes his ego to die by doing yoga, it will not: yoga keeps the ego alive. The ego dies, so to speak, the moment man understands and realises that the ego is not the doer. It is ironical that man fears for the death of his ego and at the same time wishes it to happen.
Man respects ancient scriptures and the enlightened beings, but has not understood their profound messages totally. Life has reserved these revelations for scriptures that will appear in modern times that explain the message of the illusory nature of the ego. Scriptures happened at some point and so will continue to happen. They happened to man - he did not write them. He could not have written them because he did not know how to write. Writing too happened to man so that the illusory may appear real to man, while it is not.
Yoga is not an act and so it cannot be spiritual or mundane. It certainly cannot have any effect on the mind because the mind is just as illusory as the body. Yoga does not hasten enlightenment or is required in attaining it. The mind is an illusory manifestation of sound, while the body is an illusory manifestation of light. If the world were illusory, as is claimed by the enlightened, then yoga too would be illusory in an illusory world.
Benefit of any kind or nature is not absolute and cannot be in a relative world. The beneficial effects of yoga in which man believes, no matter how illusory, cannot be attributed to yoga alone as it is not an independent act separate from other acts, which are not independent either. Yoga is a state of a singular movement that is known to the mind as yoga. All the beneficial effects of yoga are a state of energy that the body is as a result of the spontaneous process of sophistication, and not because of yoga. It is illusory to think that the beneficial effect of yoga is due to yoga. Many practise yoga but have yet to understand that, in order to practise, time would be required as much as it would be to do it even once. Practice only instils the desire to practise more. Yoga happens so that man may understand that it happens as part of a singular movement.
Life is a singular movement as life is one and not two. If life were two, then two movements could be possible, each life making its respective movement. As the body supposedly makes many movements, it makes man wonder how many lives in a moment would be required to make them. And could man ever know which life is responsible for a particular movement? It is hard to imagine. Since God is required to maintain life, it would mean that an equal number of Gods would be required for every action there is.
This would make life impossible, for fear would grip man more than it already does, because he would have to pray to all the Gods to keep his life safe. Would he be prepared to pray to all the Gods? He would not, because he prays only to the God he believes in. It would also take a considerable amount of time to pray to all the Gods just to make the body move and, as it is, man feels he has no time. Would the Gods not be in conflict with each other to be in charge of the first move of the body? Could Gods reach such a decision? If Gods needed to decide, would it make them God? Certainly not, for that would make God a man and not God. Life is singular in nature and God is just one. It is better this way and even with this workable model of life man finds the duality of life hard to contend with.
Yoga is revered for it is mentioned in one form of the scriptures. Obviously, yoga must have prevailed much before the scriptures were written for it to be mentioned. Maybe it is yoga which made the sages mention in the scripture called Ishavasya Upanishad: ‘The source of the world is whole and total; the world is whole and total and everything in it is also whole and total. If a part is removed, the part remains whole and total too.’ This is the meaning of life being one and the oneness of life. So, understand that every point of an act or yoga is whole and total, which means every point is an act or yoga and, therefore, every point in the world is an act or yoga. The entire body needs to be in play in any act or yoga, i.e. the skin, muscles, internal organs and the bones.
Therefore, approximately 700 muscles need to work in synchrony, as it were, as every muscle in the body needs to come into play in any act or yoga, because life has to be a singular flow to maintain totality-status in whole or in parts. This means that the brain has to send 700 messages to the muscles, messages to the skin, to every internal organ and to about 206 bones to do any job or yoga. These messages need to be sent by the mind to the brain, and the mind can send only one message at a time. The time required would depend on the length and intricacy of the message. Could the time required to send all the messages needed to perform one act or yoga be calculated by man?
More importantly, would yoga or any act ever occur as an act if such a requirement existed? Could the world ever be able to function? Therefore, yoga or any act cannot be an act, but merely a flow of energy which reflects an optical illusion of act and an auditory illusion of act. It is for every man, the yoga teacher and the practitioner of yoga to ponder and admire the intelligence involved in maintaining life every moment. God manifests life in such a way that yoga or any act happens miraculously only as part of a singular movement and, at the same time, makes man think that yoga is an act and that he has done yoga or an act in the past, is doing it in the present and will continue to in the future.
Breathing exercises are also considered to be yoga. Results of breathing exercises, such as deep inhalation and exhalation, cannot be absolute as man who does or does not do such exercises dies. Maybe he who does them dies earlier than the one who does not. There is no absolute proof that he who does these breathing exercises will not die earlier than the one who does not. Breathing happens to man and it is not man who makes breathing happen. If it were so, he would keep on breathing and would never die. Death is in no man’s hand and neither is his birth. Yoga happens to him to whom it is meant to happen. It happens so that man may understand that every action is yoga if a particular act is yoga.
The mind can never know the body which is in the now. The mind can only know, and does know, the body that was, as a thought in the mind, and so it could not possibly direct the body to do yoga. Life is very intelligent for it creates an illusion that the mind can control and perform yoga in life. Yoga is a thought in the mind as is everything else in this illusory world.
© Copyright 2008 V. S. Shankar