As exponents or aspirants we are all involved in personal Sadhana, or spiritual self-discipline. We undertake self-discipline because we believe in principle that the mature human being is responsible for himself by reason of his free will and for taking his place as a healthy individual within the body of humanity as a whole.
We realise that to a great extent, our life is as we make it and that our evolution is a gradual one. Having taken thousands of incarnations to reach our present stage, it will involve an unknown number of lives in the future to reach its final purpose, which is individual excellence. We usually advance very slowly and have to experience life within the constraints as well as the good fortune or positive bequests metered out by the divine law of justice, the law of Karma.
When we decide to cultivate ourselves, by polishing up the good, eliminating the negatives and make a conscious effort to live according to the great spiritual teachers of the ages, we advance more speedily. We are not motivated by the promise of future rewards, whether on earth or heaven, as our reward is experienced in our becoming the person we wish to be.
Most of us believe in the great power of evolution as a great upward driving wave which in time will sweep all back to the Source. The individual develops a gradual and progressive ability to yield to that wave and begins to experience for himself the existence of that great Intelligence - the Universal Consciousness beyond the limits of his own self. These inner experiences of God consciousness provide personal refreshment and increased spiritual fulfilment. Our faith is renewed and new strength and inspiration come from these higher experiences. And more importantly, we begin to know that we have a small role to play in the greater vastness of the Great Plan, a plan which seems clear to us as one for building a more heavenly earth.
Each of us is free to use our talents materially for our own enjoyment and self centred purpose. However, to discover that we can contribute to the good of the whole by sanctifying those talents and turning them to spiritual instead of material purpose and expressions is exciting and is known as the awakening awareness of our Dharma.
We do have a role to play. The stage upon which we must work is that of every day life amidst the tests, trials and difficulties presented by mundane circumstances, frustrations and the diverse personalities of our companions. No earnest person can honestly say that this is easy. But our life's satisfactions are great and more enduring than the brief satisfactions of a life without serious thought or purpose, filled only with pleasure seeking .
To work with others of like mind and intent is a wonderful experience which heightens our efforts and usually is rewarding if the climate is truly harmonious. Some of us choose to work in groups and others follow the path of aloneness, retiring from the main community. This is largely due to our personality and the type of commitment we have made through our Dharma.
Whether alone or in groups, it is the influence of our general intelligence and thought, our emotions and our spiritual aspiration which can reach out with invisible threads to touch another person, encourage another one's confidence, or protect another person by thought or prayer. We should be aware that although our personal efforts may not generally show dramatic changes in ourselves, our environment or in others, there is something more powerful at work in the subtle power of thought. This can inspire and help others 'catch fire' so stimulating their souls to follow their own life purpose.
Yoga psychology is an ancient knowledge developed over centuries. In some ways it is far in advance of the infant science we know as modern psychology, which recognizes its limitations regarding the spiritual nature of man. But the spirit of man is the greatest, most powerful aspect of individuality. Our young people should be educated to share in both the valuable knowledge of modern psychology with its understanding of personality and behaviour as well as learning the universal principles of spirituality known to the oriental sciences. They must be equipped to enter the new age of our history if they are to be successful in creating the conditions required for mankind to have spiritual security, intellectual freedom and benefit by the energies of Goodness, Truth, Beauty, Love and Peace which is desired by all.
There have been many attempts to explain the yogic lifestyle. It is all inclusive of the physical health practices of Hatha Yoga, the emotional and devotional context in Bhakti Yoga, the study and increased wisdom of Jnana Yoga, the mental development and strength of mind in Raja Yoga. To all these are added the special qualities and principles in our own nature, which we weave into our conscious living. Being aware of all the spheres of our individuality and accepting our limitless potential we are then free to walk with greater confidence along the path that we all must follow if we are to climb to the heights of our capabilities with a willingness to serve or guide others along the safest route.
Whatever we have come to know about Yoga and whatever we are able to demonstrate, let it be that in our hearts and minds we hold some precious understanding so that the yoga way of life will become known to others by our example in a simple but powerful life of goodness and purpose. Ultimately it is loving kindness which reflects a spiritual lifestyle.
Michael Russell Your Independent guide to Yoga