Focus on Yoga: Sincerity, Seriousness, Commitment

Swami Niranjanananda Saraswati

Ganga Darshan Vishwa Yogapeeth, Munger, 22nd September 2013

This Convention is going to be an important event in the history of yoga as it will give a new approach, direction, and understanding of how we can incorporate yogic principles and yogic practices into our life and how we can really try to develop our nature and personality. This is the fourth convention which is being held, as per the wishes of our guru, Sri Swami Satyananda.

Living the divine life

The first convention was held in 1953 in Rishikesh, by Sri Swami Sivananda. When this first convention was held, the concept, the practices and principles of yoga were made publicly available. At that time, the vision of Swami Sivananda was that each person can lead a divine life; each person can not only get engrossed, involved and entangled in material life, but can also make the effort to realize the higher nature, to develop the hidden potentials and to lead a divine life. It was with this sankalpa that Sri Swami Sivananda conducted the first World Yoga Convention.

It is necessary to understand that in 1953 yoga was an unknown subject in India as well as the rest of the world. Yoga was primarily seen as a practice which yogis and recluses who lived away from society adopted to gain enlightenment: that was the concept of yoga. Sri Swami Sivananda was the first one who said, “Yoga is for the development of human nature, yoga is for the cultivation of the qualities of head, heart, and hands.” His ideas became the foundation stones for the development of yoga in our tradition.

The focus of the convention at the time of Swami Sivananda, therefore, was to realize that we live in different dimensions of existence. We don’t only live at the physical, sensorial dimension, although we identify with it. It is not the only dimension in which we interact with our mind, with our senses, with our emotions and with our spirit. While we continue to live in the material world we can make the effort to cultivate the spiritual nature and to sublimate the gross human tendencies and try to live a qualitative, sattwic life, which he identified as ‘divine life’. That was the thrust of the first World Yoga Convention.

The propagation of yoga

The second World Yoga Convention was held in 1973 in Munger, by Sri Swami Satyananda. This time the propagation of yoga, globally, was the focus. Sri Swamiji always had the thought, the vision, that yoga should be taught by people who have perfected yoga in their life, not by common yoga teachers. He was able to foresee that in the future there would be hundreds and thousands of ‘book yoga teachers’, who have just picked up a book, looked at a few postures, started teaching people and claiming that they know yoga. Today we see that happen in practically every part of India and every part of the world.

Envisaging that this would happen, Sri Swami Satyananda started training sannyasins in yoga. It was Sri Swamiji who combined sannyasa and yoga. Prior to that, yoga was one thing and sannyasa was another thing. But his aspiration was that the selfless and dedicated people who take up yoga as sadhana in sincerity, who live according to the principles of yoga with commitment, and who are not just flirting on the fringes like many people, should become the messengers of yoga. Keeping this in mind, in order to sustain the tradition of yoga into the future, Sri Swamiji started training people in sannyasa, and sannyasins in yoga.

After the 1973 Convention the yoga movement around the world took a giant leap; many centres, ashrams, and teachers around the world began to propagate the system of yoga that Sri Swamiji had visualized. This went on for some time: the propagation of yoga, research into yoga, discovering yoga, and learning ways to apply yoga in life and in society.

Social applications of yoga

The third World Yoga Convention was held in 1993, in Munger. Sri Swami Sivananda had conducted one, Sri Swami Satyananda had conducted one, and I conducted one. In the 1993 Convention the emphasis was on the creation of a global yoga charter. According to the charter, the focus would be on implementing projects to help social development, the individual’s development, and the generation of human creativity.

After this convention, yoga went into different arenas and strata of society, into the professional and industrial fields, into the medical and other professions, and into various organizations such as the army. The practices of yoga were also applied for the benefit of people suffering from specific needs and problems. So yoga gained stability, yoga gained a status, and a glimpse of what yoga can do was seen in the third World Yoga Convention.

Sincerity, seriousness, commitment

Now, twenty years later, we are hosting the fourth World Yoga Convention. I have been thinking about the focus of the Convention. What should it be? I have been observing all of you: the sannyasins, the students, the visitors, the guests, each and every one has been under my scanner. Although I may not see you, although I may not meet you regularly or on a daily basis, everybody has been under my scanner. Not only those here in the ashram, but also those who have been living yoga in society for the last twenty years. I have been observing how they are living yoga, how much they have attained, how much progress they have made. The picture I see tells me that we again have to refocus our energies, our intentions, and our commitment to the cultivation of spiritual awareness and spiritual qualities within us.

For this refocusing, one has to be sincere, one has to be serious about what they do, and one should be committed. I am using these three ideas for this Convention, because after all, we have a very rich inheritance and tradition, a very rich collection of teachings given to us by Sri Swami Sivananda and Sri Swami Satyananda.

My question to all of you is: how much do you follow those teachings? That is my question; think about it. If you say, “I practise yoga regularly”, what do you actually do? I do not consider asana to be yoga, I do not consider pranayama to be yoga, I do not consider kundalini or kriya to be yoga. People practise asana to gain flexibility or to feel light. People practise meditation to stop the chatter of their agitated mind, not to cultivate their inherent strength of character, or their mental clarity, wisdom and understanding. So where is the sincerity in our approach to yoga? Where is the seriousness in our approach to yoga? Where is the commitment in our approach to yoga? Just coming to the ashram to have a fun time, a good time, is not enough. You can have more fun in Disneyworld. The ashram is not Disneyland.

Ashram is a place where one tries to live and experience the teachings of the masters. Ashram is the place where one learns to observe and overcome, transform and transcend one’s weaknesses, negative traits and shortcomings. Ashram is a place where one can try to become aware of the inner strength that can be cultivated to make life easier and better. But we get so entangled with our own minds, with our own likes and dislikes, ambitions and needs and desires, that the focus of the aim is lost. Where is the sincerity in that? Where is the commitment in that? Where is the seriousness in that?

Therefore, along with yoga, the theme of the Convention in 2013 is going to be: the qualities that allow the individual to grow in spiritual life. What are these qualities? Sincerity, seriousness, and commitment. The important words of this Convention are only these three.