'Be' with Swami Venkatesananda

Yoga for Integral Perfection

Yoga or ‘divine life’ is divinizing our entire life, all our activities. We cannot be saints for an hour of the day, and sinners for the rest. Our masters, therefore, plead for integral perfection. They exhort us to combine all the spiritual practices in our daily life, and thus ensure that we have a ‘balanced spiritual diet’, which enables us to grow harmoniously into a perfect personality. Theoretically, it is supposed to be sufficient to deal a fatal blow at the ego with the axe of the yoga that is suited to one’s temperament. In practice we discover it is not so. Hence it is better to adopt a concerted attack.

Even the so-called different yogas or paths to god realization are not really so different! Or exclusive! A close examination reveals that they are all interconnected. Activity – karma yoga, without love of the omnipresent God – bhakti yoga, and knowledge of the truth – jnana yoga, or the latter without right activity, is nearly impossible.

They are inseparable, and cannot be independently practiced. The emphasis differs in accordance with the difference in individual temperament. If there is God at heart, his love must flow in and through all our limbs. If there is knowledge of God in the ‘head’, it must compel us to love him, too. Head, heart, and hand, must respond to God-love.

The Indian spiritual aspirant is an optimist. He knows that, without purification, he cannot get God-realization. He knows that karma yoga, which implies multiplicity – a finger cannot scratch itself, and bhakti yoga, which implies duality, and jnana – direct intuitive realization of oneness, which asserts unity, are rationally incompatible, and yet he practices them together. He does not understand the Upanishads, but reads them daily. When the heart is purified through karma yoga, and the mind is steadied by bhakti-raja-yoga, then the knowledge of the Upanishads illumines his soul.

Perfection is a synthesis of all yogas. Raja yoga steadies the mind, and jnana yoga pours wisdom into it. Feeling is perfected by bhakti yoga. ‘Living’ is perfected by karma yoga. The instrument with which we are able to practice yoga, the body, is looked after by hatha yoga. All these together constitute yoga. They are inseparable, even as the three faculties – thinking, feeling, and ‘living’ – are inseparable in us.