Part 2: The Foundation of Yoga Wisdom

Okay, before I begin I always offer my respects to my spiritual teachers, my masters who brought this knowledge to us. This is Vedic knowledge coming from the Vedic scriptures. The Vedas are very ancient scriptures. They were written down 5,000 years ago. However the knowledge itself is eternal. So prior to being written down this knowledge was passed down orally from one perfect master to the next. Such a line of perfect teachers is known as a disciplic succession, or a parampara. We are in the parampara known as the Brahma Sampradaya and we feel very fortunate to receive our knowledge through this lineage. So this is not my opinion, see, I’m just passing on this eternal science.

Yoga is a very, very popular word today. It is very prevalent throughout the world. I travel now to many, many, small, we will call, not really, but we’ll use the term, third world countries, but even there people are practicing yoga. Places you’d be surprised, “How do they know about yoga?” Very widespread. I remember quite—maybe 15 years ago or something, where it wasn’t so widespread, especially in this part, or those parts of the world I’m referring to. I was in Russia on the beach near Sochi. She’s from Russia, that’s why I point at her. And it was early in the morning, still dark, and I have a little routine I do, some hatha yoga early in the morning. So I was doing hatha yoga, beach was completely deserted. I thought nobody was there and I’m doing my yoga, hatha yoga, and I kind of sensed there was somebody there and I kind of looked out of the corner of my eye and I saw this old Russian man, he was just standing there, just on the perimeter of the darkness. He was kind of looking down at me, so I just kept on with what I was doing and he stood there for a little bit and then he goes, “Yoga, huh?” And just disappeared into the darkness. (Laughter) Wow. Even he knows. So it spread.

But when people think of yoga mainly they think of hatha yoga, which is what you participated in this morning. Wonderful, see. And it is very, very beneficial, but it is just a small part of yoga, very, very small part of one yoga system. So there’s different yoga systems, and there’s different destinations, that these different yoga systems, now they’re often referred to as paths, will take the practitioner to. And there is a common philosophy now circulated that all paths lead to the same place. Anybody ever heard that? All paths lead to the same place? They don’t! They don’t! And that’s the misconception that I’m going to try to remove with this presentation.

But before we get very far I have to go over the idea of identity because this is the foundation of all yoga. All yoga knowledge is based on this understanding of our identity. If we don’t know who we are, you got a big problem and almost nobody does. That’s why we get big problems. So the quicker we learn the truth about our identity the better it is, you see.

Actually the Vedas say we should all ask ourselves the question: who am I? But almost nobody does it because we already think we know who we are. Now of course we’ve all got our identities, we’ve had them our whole life. We have them in our minds, we have them on our lips, we carry them around in our pockets. Meaning: this is who I think I am, this is who I tell others I am and I can even prove it. Here’s my passport, my documents. We accept this and so does everyone else.

But is this our true identity? And upon close examination we discover this is only a compilation of many labels. This labelling process begins at birth. So all of us here right now, as soon as we took birth we received one of two labels, male or female and we still identify like that today. I’m a man or I’m a woman. At the same time we’ve got another label according to our race, Caucasian, Negroid or whatever it may be. And our national identity can be very strong. I am Canadian, I am American, etcetera. Our family identity, we belong to this family. And actually this identity is so strong that every day on this planet one person kills another person simply because they’ve got a different label and this is just the beginning. Many, many labels come and go throughout our entire life.

So once again at birth we are also known as babies, then kids. We start school and now we’re students. A few more years go by and we become teenagers, then finally adults. We take up some profession in life and we’re known accordingly - doctors, lawyers, secretaries, nurses. We get married, oh, immediately we’re a husband or a wife. We have a child, now we’re parents, fathers, mothers. A few more years go by, grandfathers, grandmothers and this is how we see our self. This is me. This is who I am. And this continues on and on until we finally get the last label. Dead. (Laughter) Ooh, I don’t like that label. (Laughter) But see, looking closely we can tell this is all in relation to our material bodies. It is true the body is male or female, is black or white, it’s old or young, it’s big or little. Whatever the body is, it is. That’s true. The question is, is this who we are?

Every day we all take our pilgrimage to the mirror to see how we look. Sometimes we are a little disappointed. We always come back the next day. Gee maybe there’s been some improvement, “Oh shoot, no.” But do we really see our self?

So the question is, am I this material body? If we want the most authoritative answer we should go to the revealed scriptures of the world and there we quickly learn, no you’re not the material body. However this is the modern world and very rarely does anyone go to scripture to find out the truth in life. However we do readily accept the conclusion of the scientists because they prove things. Oh we like the scientists. Well uniquely enough in this case the scientists have proven in the laboratory that we are not our material bodies. They discovered there’s no cell in the human body that lives more than five years and some cells have a very short life. For instance, the lining of our stomach; those cells live five days. Our skin cells, one month. Our liver cells, six weeks, etcetera. But in five years everything has changed. So if I’m looking at a photograph of myself taken ten years ago the eyes in the photograph are actually different than the eyes I’m looking at the photograph with. They are actually not the same eyes.

According to this scientific formula if I’m 35 years old I’ve had seven bodies. But of course we all know we are not seven different people. Everybody knows, hey I’m still me. So the changing factor is the material body, the constant factor is the self. We are not these material bodies. At this point some people become introspective and meditative. They begin to look inside to find out who they really are and when we do look inside, what do we find? There is emotion, desire, sentiment, feeling, will. Now these are all very real and it is easy to conclude, ah ha, this is who I really am. But we must confirm this with scripture and especially the Vedic scriptures because they are very detailed in this knowledge.

And when we do, we find we’ve made another mistake. This is not who we are either. This is actually another material body and it’s called the subtle mental body. Sometimes it’s called the astral body. I know some of you have heard of the astral body. So we have two bodies; we’ve got our physical body and our mental body, just like two layers of clothing. We have our outer layer and our under layer. But the question remains, who am I? So once again we go to the Vedas and there we learn that we are in a different category of energy. Everything is energy. Our bodies are material energy. But we learn that we are spiritual energy. We further learn that we are a tiny little spark of spiritual energy. We learn that material energy is temporary and that’s really easy to see. We know all too well that our bodies are very temporary, so much so that we don’t even want to talk about it. Hey, hey, hey don’t talk about that. But even a more permanent thing, like say, the building over there, see, come back in 1,000 years, gee where was that? See, gone.

So material energy is temporary but we learn that spiritual energy is eternal. Eternal means no beginning and no end. So we are eternal. We also learn that material energy is non-living and again that’s easy to see. See this microphone or this clock or whatever, there is no life here. But we learn that spirit is life itself. There is no such thing as live matter. There is no such thing as dead spirit. We are the life force in the body. As long as we are present in the body the body is called alive but actually this is not true. The body is dead. We are alive. That becomes very obvious at the time of death.

At the time of death we leave the body and at that moment the body reveals its true nature. It can’t even sit in a chair, you see. It falls on the floor. So we are the life force in the body. Therefore our true identity is spirit soul. Spirit meaning that we are spiritual in essence and soul meaning this individual spiritual spark that we eternally are. We never become someone else and we never cease to exist. Now for some people this is very depressing news. What, I’ll always be me? Gee I thought it was going to be over soon. Sorry. It’s never over. (chuckles) But when we learn the truth in life then it becomes very wonderful news. So we are spirit soul and we further learn that we’re a part and parcel of the Supreme Soul. There is a Supreme Soul from which we all come. We are known as the atma and the Supreme Soul is the Paramatma.

Now that we understand this we can begin to discuss and understand our subject of yoga because yoga is all about us, the spirit soul. It is not about the material, it is about the spiritual. The yoga paths are for us, the spirit soul.