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Physical exercises will not bring you the Yoga of mind || Acharya Prashant (2020)
Author Acharya Prashant
Acharya Prashant
7 min
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Questioner: Acharya Ji, Rishikesh is considered to be the capital of Yoga. We would like to listen from you, what is your definition about Yoga?

Acharya Prashant: It has to start from your definition of yourself, right? If you are convinced that you are the body, then your Yoga has to be physical. If you are utterly convinced that you are nothing but the material body, then what else can Yoga be for you? Something bodily. But if your primary place is the mind, if your primary concerns are not physical but mental, then you have to address yourself as the restless mind.

Let’s say you have a sore knee or an inflamed back or a frozen shoulder, then you have no choice but to go for the physical kind of Yoga. Because your trouble itself is physical, so the solution has to be physical, right? Right now, I needed water. Had he offered me ‘Ramayana’ that would have not helped me. My problem was my throat, not my soul. So, my throat needed this material water. I got it. Thanks. So, if my knee needs some help or support, then the kind of physical Yoga we mainly see in Rishikesh is obviously the right thing.

But let's observe the condition of most people. Let’s look at mankind in general. We are talking of the 21st century today. Are our problems primarily physical anymore or are we all victims of a neglected, ignored restless mind? We have to figure that out for ourselves. Today, we have both great advancements in medical science and great advances in industrial production and the availability of goods and services to be consumed. If indeed, you have a problem with your body, then most of those problems can be taken care of by medical science. Obviously, not all problems are purely physical. A lot of them are psychosomatic. So, if you want to really address them, you require to heal the mind as well. But still, when it comes to an inflamed knee, medical science does have a few answers. Nevertheless, if medical science does not have answers you can try ‘Hath Yoga’.

But where does the bulk of mankind's problems lie? Are we all sufferers of our physicality or is it so that body-wise we are almost all right? Give and take a few. The mind is extremely unhealthy. If you are to look at the general condition of mankind, what is it that you find more unhealthy, the body or the mind? Are we one on this? Keep the exceptions aside. Take a general average. When you look at the mass of people, what is it that you find more unhealthy, the body or the mind? The mind. Hence, what do we need, Yoga of the body or Yoga of the mind?

Yoga of the mind, right? This much has to be very clearly understood. And if you need Yoga of the mind, then you must know what is it that the mind wants to dissolve into? It's a cliché, right? Yoga means union and then some wise soul would come and say, “Yoga means the union of body mind and soul.” And all kinds of fancy things are said. Obviously, most of them have no scriptural basis. But even literally, Yoga does mean union and if it is the mind that is sick, who is it that the mind wants to unite with? That’s the Yoga that we want. That's the proper definition of Yoga for today. Figure out what is it that you want?

The mind is desirous, the mind is restless. It won't really help the mind much if you are busy exercising the body. What is it that our desires are crazy for? Why is it that we never find complete happiness? Why does no elation ever last? Where do our intentions and inclinations come from? What is the strong force of passion and emotion? Where do they come from? And what do they ultimately want? Addressing these questions is real Yoga.

It always was really Yoga. But today it is more needed probably than ever in the history of mankind. Look at the extinction of species. Look at the impending climate catastrophe. We are already 8 billion people on the planet and by the turn of the century if we manage to survive till then, we would probably be 11 or 12 billion. You know of the carbon footprint of the average American and all the people of all the countries of the world, exceptions aside, want to be what the average American is today in terms of consumption, not in any other sense. They want to consume as much as the American does.

Today, we need to understand the mind, not the brain so much. The mind I am talking of. The brain does not want anything. The brain is a physical organ, much like your finger, pre-programmed, not really desirous of anything except its own security and continuation. But what is it that the mind wants? If you do not understand that, then you cannot stop the tendency of mind to keep consuming blindly. The more you consume, the more you approach the utter destruction of mankind itself. That's a historical situation today. So, that's the Yoga that we need and only such Yoga can save man. Instead, if the word ‘Yoga’ comes to be synonymous with physical exercise, then it's a travesty. It's a joke. It's not for nothing that we consume so much. It's not for nothing that we want to have a family. It's not for nothing that the population is exploding.

First of all, we are increasing our number. Secondly, we are increasing the per capita consumption. So, both ways we are just trying to satiate our appetite for something. We want something and we want to reach it, have it through material consumption. Would have been great if we could have it through material consumption. The tragedy is, no amount of material consumption seems enough. We keep on consuming. We keep on consuming the river, the tree. We keep on consuming the other’s body. We keep on consuming knowledge, keep on consuming the products of science, the gifts of technology and yet, none of that brings us to any kind of final peace. And all of that is because the mind is in ‘Viyoga’ . The mind is separated from something that it desperately wants. So, Yoga has to be an inquiry into ‘who we are’ and ‘what is it that we really want.’

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