Spotlight

Yoga for peace

Print edition : April 13, 2018

Virabhadrasana I, Puerto Viejo, Costa Rica. Photo: Benoy K. Behl

Natarajasana, Puerto Viejo, Costa Rica. Photo: Benoy K. Behl

Svarga Dvidasana, Puerto Viejo, Costa Rica. Photo: Benoy K. Behl

Eka Pada Chakrasana, Puerto Viejo, Costa Rica. Photo: Benoy K. Behl

Bakasana, Puerto Viejo, Costa Rica. Photo: Benoy K. Behl

Dhanurasana, Sivananda Yoga Ranch, Woodbourne, New York State, U.S. Photo: Benoy K. Behl

Eka Pada Rajakapotasana, Sivananda Yoga Ranch, Woodbourne, New York State, U.S. Photo: Benoy K. Behl

Bhujangasana, Sivananda Yoga Ranch, Woodbourne, New York State, U.S. Photo: Benoy K. Behl

Kala Bhairavasana, Sivananda Yoga Ranch, Woodbourne, New York State, U.S. Photo: Benoy K. Behl

Bandha Mayurasana, Sivananda Yoga Ranch, Woodbourne, New York State, U.S. Photo: Benoy K. Behl

Vrischikasana, Sivananda Yoga Ranch, Woodbourne, New York State, U.S. Photo: Benoy K. Behl

Upavishtha Konasana Shirshasana, Sivananda Yoga Ranch, Woodbourne, New York State, U.S. Photo: Benoy K. Behl

Ashwa Sanchalanasana, Sivananda Yoga Ranch, Woodbourne, New York State, U.S. Photo: Benoy K. Behl

Garudasana, Puerto Viejo, Costa Rica. Photo: Benoy K. Behl

Ubhaya Padangusthasana, Sivananda Yoga Ranch, Woodbourne, New York State, U.S. Photo: Benoy K. Behl

Matsyasana, Sivananda Ashram Yoga Retreat, the Bahamas. Photo: Benoy K. Behl

Eka Pada Sirsasana, Pura Vida Retreat & Spa, Alajuela, Costa Rica. Photo: Benoy K. Behl

Eka Pada Sirsasana (variation), Pura Vida Retreat & Spa, Costa Rica. Photo: Benoy K. Behl

Gentle yoga for seniors, Sivananda Ashram Yoga Farm, Grass Valley, California, U.S. Photo: Benoy K. Behl

Gentle yoga for seniors, Sivananda Ashram Yoga Farm, Grass Valley, California, U.S. Photo: Benoy K. Behl

A Yoga Asana class at the Sivananda Yoga Ranch in Woodbourne, New York State, U.S. Photo: Benoy K. Behl

Dhyana, or meditation, Sivananda Yoga Ranch, Woodbourne, New York State, U.S. Photo: Benoy K. Behl

Visvamitrasana, Pura Vida Retreat & Spa, Costa Rica. Photo: Benoy K. Behl

YOGA is a science of life that was developed to help us know ourselves, to realise the peace and joy that can be found within. It is amazing to see how, in modern times, we keep ourselves busy chasing the many objects of our desires in the ephemeral world. It is almost as if at the end of the rainbow there will be a mobile phone, a computer or a television set that will give us lasting happiness. We forget that these pleasures are only momentary and that lasting joy can be found only in the endless peace that is within. The only achievement that is finally meaningful, whose victories do not fade in a trice, is the conquest of the mind. Yoga takes us back to who we really are, to a state of stillness in which we have gained mastery over ourselves.

Yoga goes far beyond the medical system. It not only prevents disease but covers all aspects of life. The integration of yoga and modern medicine would help the world shift from disease management to health promotion. When an individual grows in the understanding of his true self and develops compassion, it will lead to more harmony within families and groups, in society and finally in the community of nations.

Says the Yogacharya Ananda Balayogi Bhavanani of the International Centre for Yoga Education and Research (ICYER), Puducherry: “Modern science is always looking at someone else, something else or some place else. The yoga dhristi, the yogic perspective, has always been inward, looking at one’s own self, understanding who we are, understanding the answer to the question ko hum, who am I? If you want to go in, you have to be still, your body has to be still, your emotions have to be still, your mind has to be still. That is why the yogic scientists, the yoga rishis, adopted still postures, to still the mind, still the breath, still the emotions to go on that inner journey of finding one’s self.”

Meditation

On dhyana, or meditation, Swami Sitaramananda, an acharya of the Sivananda Tradition in Grass Valley, California, United States, points out that the mind separates our self from our bliss within. “We need to be aware of our thought process so that we can transform our thinking, so that we can have less thoughts, less agitations… less stress. Then we can enjoy our blissful self, and that is meditation.”

David Frawley, an American Hindu teacher and author of books on the Vedas, Hinduism, yoga, and so on, poses questions on how to integrate our perception as also our knowledge and arrive at a holistic understanding of who we are as individuals, the nature of the universe, the nature of life.

Self-realisation

The answers, he says, lie in yoga. “Yoga provides us an inner technology of the spirit, an inner technology of consciousness, an inner science of understanding ourselves, so that we can directly perceive who we are…. Yoga deconstructs our outer world view of physical reality, but restores our inner sense of the immortal transcendent overflowing universe of consciousness.”

He has an interesting perspective on yoga and self-realisation: “This is not simply our human self; this is the self or the spirit behind nature. This is the consciousness that’s in the sun, the moon, the stars, the plants, the waters, the fire…. So yoga is about uniting our individual mind with the universal consciousness, which is full of bliss. What causes sorrow is limitation and division.”

The stress and tension that we experience every day can be attributed to the wrong understanding of the purpose of life, says Swami Sitaramananda. “We are all caught in the idea that our life is temporary and everything we do will come to an end. This creates existential anxiety. We have tension, we have stress, we have disease…. However, when we expand our consciousness and search within, the answers come to us and we become more detached towards the happenings in our life. We develop a large vision of ourselves as one among others. We do not have conflict with others. Instead, we would embrace them. We would identify with the self in others.”

The essence of all this is love, says Meenakshi Devi Bhavanani of the ICYER. She is quick to add: “I am not talking of Hollywood love or Bollywood love or even the love for personalities. Love transcends all personalities. As long as the personality is involved, there is no love. It has to become a universal experience. I used to say ‘Swami ji what is love?’ and he would say ‘Love is profound interest’. To have profound interest you must be capable of concentration. If we can sustain that love, it becomes dhyana; we become one with that object of love. If we can sustain that long enough, that love will take us right into samadhi, where our individual self that seeks liberation is dissolved, like the salt is dissolved in the ocean.”

About the photographer-film-maker

Benoy K. Behl is a film-maker, art historian and photographer who is known for his prolific output of work over the past 41 years. He has taken over 50,000 photographs of Asian monuments and art heritage, made 140 documentaries on art and cultural history, and conducted exhibitions in 59 countries. He finds a place in Limca Book of Records as the most travelled photographer. The text in this feature is an edited excerpt from his documentary film under production, Yoga for Health & Global Harmony.

The vastness of Behl’s documentation presents a wide and new perspective in understanding the art and culture of India and of Asia. He has been invited to lecture by most of the important universities and museums around the world that have departments of Asian art. His celebrated book The Ajanta Caves is published by Thames & Hudson, London, and Harry N. Abrams, New York. It is in its fifth print run. Frontline and the Hindu Group recently published Behl’s book (in two volumes) The Art of India.

Behl’s first two films on yoga were shown in 50 countries on the first and second International Yoga Days. His photographic exhibitions on the subject were also opened on those days in 20 countries. Behl has been assisted in the photography and research by Sujata Chatterji.

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