A giant oak tree grows from a single seed. How long does it take to reach its full height? Dozens, maybe hundreds of years.
Like a seed planted long ago, the tradition of yoga germinated, sprouted, and has grown into a global tree, a widely popular practice with many branches and styles.
As a practical system, yoga was developed over five thousand years ago. Why did it take this long to become popular? There have been many yogis throughout history, but never was yoga so widespread as it is today.
Perhaps, the teachings have become more available through the use of digital technology, and instant access to information online. In the past, a student had to be pre-qualified to study with a master. Nowadays, not only can anybody practice yoga but they can also become a yoga teacher. It’s now available to all.
Ancient yogis recognized powerful effects of this practice on an individual. It transforms and heals. It enlightens and transcends. It is a vehicle for transformation and growth.
They also recognized how yoga can change people as a whole, as a culture. It can be a vehicle for societal and cultural change, or even a cultural evolution.
As a service to the world, the Rishis of the past sent out a wish into the future (a mental projection) that “whenever the planet needs the ancient wisdom of yoga, it will re-surface to as much popularity as needed.”
The need is here and now. The world needs the wisdom of yoga. Why? What is so special about yoga? What did the ancient yogis foresee?
They saw Ego. A huge ego, growing into billions of faces and invading hundreds of cultures. The ego, or the sense of separateness, is an essential part of the mind. It places us in the infamous human predicament: ensuring our physical and mental safety, but robbing us of the continual experience of inner peace.
As a protective mechanism, the ego continuously strengthens itself through physical training of the body, conditioning and education of the mind, securing a ‘comfortable’ place in the world socially and financially, and so on. Basically, the ego always looks out for itself, even at the expense of others.
When dealing with other egos, there may be conflict. If unregulated, conflict may grow into war. History has shown how prevalent wars have been in ‘solving’ problems of the ego.
However, when dealing with the natural world, which has little or no ego and typically doesn’t consciously wage war, there is consistent, on-going abuse, overuse, and destruction.
As a conscious human being living in today’s world, you already know the damage caused by the constant onslaught of human ego-driven activity on our precious planet.
This is where yoga comes in. But what does yoga have to do with nature and the ego? Well, everything, really.
What is yoga, anyway? Union. Union of everything: body, breath, mind, inner self, and every other living and non-living thing in the entire existence: rocks, plants, animals, and other human beings.
Yoga is a realization that there is oneness behind everything and this Oneness is who you are. It is inexplicable in words or thoughts, but one feels it anyway, when, suddenly but often enough, one peeks beyond the mind’s constant chattering.
This experience of oneness, of yoga, of lasting inner peace and happiness, is the opposite of Ego, the sense of separateness.
In fact, yoga, and absolute happiness, are experienced only when the ego is clear, or, to use the language of yoga, purified. Once the ego is pure, yoga happens naturally.
This view of yoga may seem unexpected for many modern yoga class participants due to its current trend toward the physical, but, as a science and a practical system, yoga primarily deals with the mind. It may begin with the physical conditioning of the body – postures and sequences to gain physical control, but all to get a handle on the mind. According to yogic wisdom, to control the mind perfectly is the most difficult task in the Universe.
The body is much easier to control. Gradually, the transition is made from the physical to the subtle energetic and mental exercises.
So what about yoga’s secret goal?
Imagine what would happen if large numbers of people had an authentic experience of yoga. Imagine if people could sustain ego-less existence for periods of time long enough to feel compassion for all other beings on Earth. As yogis, awake to our inner nature and in union with our environment, ever conscious of the One essence behind all, we realize that we are inseparable from Mother Earth.
The purpose, or goal, of yoga becomes our purpose in life. We realize that it is our inherent duty to take care of our planet and all its creatures, to live in harmony, as a family, as brothers and sisters, with all, regardless of our cultural backgrounds, color of our skin, our religious beliefs, or societal status. As yogis, we become ecology-warriors, and messengers of Peace. We realize that we are the caretaker-species; and that is why we have a complex mind and the energy for this grand task. We naturally dedicate our lives to alleviate the suffering of others, create peace in the world, raise our common consciousness, and awaken others to their true nature and the unity between all life.
So this is the seldom-told secret about yoga: its goal is to bring about change in the world – global transformation of consciousness. This is what has been projected by the great Rishis of the past as a means to save our precious Mother Earth and learn to live in harmony and love.
Why is this a secret? Perhaps, ‘hidden’ or ‘unapparent’ may be better words. It is unapparent about yoga that it has such a deep transformational effect on one’s consciousness. Often, yoga comes into one’s life through the back-door of the ego. People are usually attracted to yoga because of the ego. These days, the common reasons for starting a yoga practice range from getting more flexible, to meeting a cute partner in class, to getting a “yoga-butt.” Enlightenment and cultural transformation are usually not on that list.
Thus, the ego plays a crucial role in one’s path to self-discovery and ego-purification. With regular practice of Love for the body, mind, inner heart, and the planet, you as a yoga practitioner transform your life to become a real yogi in the original sense of the word. A yogi is a self-realized being in harmony with the their inner self and the world around them