What is yoga?

Deepak Chopra: The word yoga is the same as the English word “yoke”. So in the New Testament when Jesus Christ says, “My yoke is easy and my burden is light,” my interpretation is that he’s referring to yoga. It means “union”--Union of the body, mind and the spirit as one continuum of consciousness.

I think the Bhagavad Gita is about both the forces of light and the forces of darkness that exist within our own self, within our own soul; that our deepest nature is one of ambiguity. We have evolutionary forces there – forces of creativity, and love, and compassion, and understanding. But we also have darkness inside us – the diabolical forces of separation, fear and delusion. And in most of our lives, there is a battle going on within ourselves between the sacred and the profane; between the evolutionary impulses and the destructive tendencies that we have; between creativity on the one hand and addictive behavior on the other hand; between the divine and the diabolical; between the light and the shadow; between the sacred and the profane.

So the Bhagavad Gita is an understanding of this battle that we have in our consciousness that ultimately is played out in the battlefield that we call our physical bodies and physical universe.

So by understanding the dynamics of these forces within our own consciousness, and by beginning to harmonize our impulses with the evolutionary impulse within us, we heal ourselves. And in doing so, we heal not only our physical bodies, but our world. Because the world that we find ourselves in is a projection of both our personal consciousness and our collective consciousness.

It’s very relevant to modern times when you see things like global warming, climate chaos, changing weather patterns, natural disasters like hurricane Katrina, extreme poverty, economic disparities, social injustice, war, and terrorism – these are the projection of a collective consciousness that’s in disarray. A very collective consciousness where there is a rift in the collective soul. A collective consciousness that is evolving, but is going through a lot of turbulence.

Spirituality is experiential. And classically in India, it is taught through yoga. But most people have a misunderstanding of yoga. They equate it with the physical postures that they do in the yoga studio, which are one component of yoga. But yoga classically is divided into four types. And they have to do with four basic instincts that human beings have: being, feeling, thinking and doing.

So the yoga of being is meditation, self-reflection, the ability to shut off the world of the senses and go to the source of our own thought. It’s called raja yoga

The second yoga is the yoga of love through relationship, and understanding that love is the ultimate truth at the heart of creation; and that through relationship we can move progressively from attraction, to infatuation, to communion, to intimacy, to passion, to detachment, to ecstasy – which is our ground state and the exaltation of our spirit.

So love and relationship is the second means of experiencing spirituality. If somebody doesn’t understand spirituality, ask them if they’ve ever been in love. That’s an experience of spirituality.

The third way of understanding yoga or having the experience of spirit is through service. When you perform service without any selfish motivation, it’s called karma yoga. Then you also get in touch with the same domain of awareness that we call spirit.

And the fourth way of understanding spirituality is through the intellect, through the mind, through signs, through understanding how the laws of nature work, because the laws of nature are, in fact, the mind of the universe.

 

Recorded on: Aug 17, 2007

 

Yoga, which comes from the word "yoke," is the union of the body, mind and the spirit.

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