Yoga is a Mystical Science

swamiji_new3_brighter_headshotBy Swami Nirmalananda

“We’re taking the mysticism out of yoga,” she told me.  I was shocked!  This was 1983 and I had just returned from India.  In my seven years of living and studying with a Realized Being, I experienced the mystical reality promised by the sages.  The yoga teacher who was speaking so authoritatively didn’t know that yoga promises enlightenment.  And she didn’t care.  She was dedicated to athletic mastery of her body, quite appropriately teaching in a gym.  To me, it was like she was saying, “We’re taking the air out of breathing.”

Yoga is a mystical science.  It’s what makes yoga so popular today; it’s what makes yoga work!  If you jog or cycle an hour a day, lift weights or swim, you get strong, healthy and your quality of life improves.  Research studies have proven this over and over.  If you do yoga, you get all this plus you get peace.  Athleticism doesn’t give you peace or make you spiritual, but amazingly yoga does, even athletic styles.  How does this work?  It’s the mysticism, currently hidden under the hype.

This blog is dedicated to unearthing the “mystery,” the root of the word “mysticism.”  This is the hidden power of yoga, that which makes it work.  The paradox is that we yoga practitioners unwittingly conceal the truth of yoga.  Yoga is a mystical science which is a scintillating gem that magnifies the light of consciousness.  As the first President of Yoga Alliance, I led a team of dedicated yogis from different traditions in the process of finding common ground.  We frequently reminded ourselves. “Yoga will survive even our attempt to protect it.”

pretty-happy-face-pinterest-comBecause yoga makes you beautiful, the goal has become beauty.  Except beauty won’t make you happy.  Because yoga makes you healthy, the goal has become health.  Except health doesn’t make you happy.  Because yoga makes you younger, the goal has become perennial youth.  Ponce de Leon is credited with searching for the fountain of youth, but yoga provides it.  Except youth doesn’t make you happy.  All you have to do is ask a young, healthy, beautiful person if they are happy.  And ask if their happiness comes from their youth, health or beauty.  Or look at the beauties in the media spotlight.  Their lives tell you they are not happy.

Does that mean that happiness the goal?  India’s ancient and modern sages agree on this — the answer is, “Yes.  And no.”  If you’re not happy, you’ll do whatever it takes to get happy, even if it is illegal, immoral or fattening.  Without happiness, life isn’t worth living.  Happiness is essential.  It is essential because happiness is your essence.  When you aren’t happy, you aren’t you.

Your essential nature is not merely happiness; it is independently arising, ever-flowing, unparalleled, ever-expanding ecstasy.  Aananda in Sanskrit, it’s what everyone is seeking but no one is finding, simply because they’re looking in the wrong place.  Everyone is looking outside.  Happiness is inside.  More importantly, the Source of Happiness is within you.  That’s the mystery.  We’ll explore it together.

swami-hands-cropped-65OM svaroopa svasvabhavah namo namah

To your Inherent Divinity, again and again I bow.

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