Integral Yoga – An Introduction
A story is told in India about four blind men and an elephant. Not being able to see the animal, the only way they could figure out what the elephant looked like was to touch it. They all approached the elephant and analyzed it carefully with their hands. One, grabbing the tail, compared the elephant to a broom. Another, feeling the trunk, said it was like a snake. Another, touching its side, said the animal was like a wall, and the fourth, holding one of the ears, said it to be a winnowing fan.
The truth is, all four were correct, but none could accurately comprehend the complete picture. The elephant is all these put together and more. It is a living, breathing, intelligent being. So too, the human personality cannot be accurately and completely analyzed from just one angle; moreover, any methodology based on this line of reasoning is inherently flawed.
An Integrated Perspective:
There are four primary aspects of the human personality – Action, Emotion, Will, and Reason. A complete individual, one who “has it all together,” has cultivated each of these attributes to its fullest potential and maximizes all resources at his or her disposal. Over thousands of years, Indian sages possessing profound insight and wisdom into the human condition recognized this truth and developed four major Yogas to facilitate the highest level of personality integration. Each personality attribute corresponds to a particular Yoga.
Of the four major Yogas, Dhyana Yoga is probably the one with the greatest degree of familiarity. It is geared towards developing the “willing” aspect of the personality. Also known as the Yoga of Meditation, Dhyana Yoga explores the science of the mind through systematic meditative techniques. Also included under Dhyana Yoga, is Hatha Yoga a complete system for maintaining a high level of physical and mental health and well-being. It is through the study of Dhyana Yoga that the will aspect in a personality becomes strong and vital, unlocking the immense potentials and powers of the mind.
Bhakti Yoga, or the Yoga of Devotion, is aimed at the emotional aspect of the personality. Briefly, it teaches the individual to culture his thoughts and feelings while surrendering his cares and worries to the Divinity that exists within him. Through Bhakti Yoga, one discovers an unlimited source of peace and tranquility overcoming sentiments of fear, insecurity and restlessness.
Karma Yoga, or the Yoga of Action, is a highly evolved plan that allows one to carry on his practical realities in the world with increased skill and efficiency. Through Karma Yoga, actions begin to take on new meaning with a definite purpose and direction.
Finally, Jnana Yoga, or the Yoga of Wisdom, deals with the reasoning or rational aspect of the personality. Confusions about life and the world disappear as reason becomes clear and sharp. Moreover, through a deeper cultivation of reason, one begins to intuitively find the answers to life’s more profound questions.
Integral Yoga provides the benefits and advantages of all these practices put together and much more! When the various techniques are combined into a sound, complete and balanced system, their effects are multiplied. Since progress in one makes the others more effective, practice becomes easier and easier. Success occurs more rapidly. And with that added momentum, you soon find yourself moving in the world with a certain gracefulness. Through Integral Yoga, we discover that the four Yogas and their branches actually are interdependent and go to form one organic whole. The elephant can now be grasped in all its majestic glory.
Why are other approaches less effective?
It’s wonderful that many have recognized the beneficial impact that practicing yoga brings to one’s life. While there are many fine methods that can help you to live a happier and peaceful life, unless all dimensions of the personality are addressed, one can never fully bask in the true glory of perfect integration. Though advancement in a particular discipline may occur quickly, the neglected parts of the personality will eventually be revealed and the shortcomings will surface. Balance holds the key to success and good fortune in all walks of life. Through the practice of Integral Yoga, your progress is balanced, steady, sure and safe.
There are no harsh austerities to observe in Integral Yoga. Neglecting the body through severe fasts or other such rigorous disciplines is a mistake and has little bearing upon real progress and integration in one’s personality. Besides, life sometimes provides us with enough austerities to keep us busy without the need to further complicate matters.
Curiously though, with a gentle effort through Integral Yoga, life begins to flow and adapt to your needs. Life begins to work for you, and not against you. It becomes an aid to your progress and development. Through your newly acquired boons of positive thinking and increased willpower, remarkable things just seem to start happening. You enable an overall improvement because within you lies the uncommon potential to change and mold your life into whatever you want.
Though Integral Yoga is a modern method for integrating the personality, it still remains the only authentic form of Yoga as was developed by the ancient masters.
From Master to Disciple the Torch is Passed
There are many wonderful teachers of Yoga that specialize in one particular aspect. Though the yogic tradition aimed to include all four dimensions in a well-balanced manner, the pressures of history have not always permitted the tradition to be upheld as it was intended. However, a succession of great spiritual teachers of the recent past has endeavored to correct this limitation.
In the mid-1800’s, Ramakrishna Paramhamsa and his disciple Swami Vivekananda initiated a movement back towards an integrated form of Yoga. In more recent times, this effort was further developed by the well-known Sage, Swami Sivananda of Rishikesh, in the Himalayan region of Northern India. It was this famous spiritual leader who was the direct teacher of Swami Jyotirmayananda.
Today, Swami Jyotirmayananda is the foremost authority on the method of Integral Yoga and is the last living direct disciple of Sri Swami Sivananda. After over 60 years of teaching yoga with his unique flare and style, Swamiji has perfected the transmission of the techniques and tradition. His teachings are the essential nectar of the yogic wisdom as compiled by sages who have been promoting a comprehensive philosophy of Yoga over millennia. Swamiji stands as one of the most important personalities in expanding the consciousness and elevating the lives of thousands throughout the world through his inspiring message and great love for all, and continues to make a powerful impact on the world we live in.
Swamiji reminds us, “All great and noble qualities of love, patience and understanding are your innate reality your true nature. But the negative traits like anger, greed and hate are false, illusory and not part of the real you.”
Hari OM Tat Sat!