The contents on these Our Teachings webpages are reproduced from the book “Essentials of Yoga Practice and Philosophy” compiled by Swami Sitaramananda.
Below is a testimonial for this book.
A concise guide to Yoga in all of its aspects, healing, mantra, pranayama, asana and meditation as taught by one of the most important Yoga lineages of the modern world, Essentials of Yoga Practice and Philosophy is a helpful resource that all serious Yoga students should keep close by for regular study.
Author of more than 30 books on Yoga
Quote: “Solve first the, “Who am I?” problem. All other problems will be automatically solved.” – Swami Sivananda, in “Sivananda Upanishad”
Yoga philosophy is called Vedanta philosophy; it comes from the scripture called the Vedas. The term Vedanta is derived from the Sanskrit root “Vid” – “to know”, and “Anta” meaning “end”.
Thus Vedanta literally means “the end of knowledge”. The Philosophy Vedanta is so called because it explains what the end is and how to achieve it.
It is a philosophy that teaches the unity of life, or oneness of consciousness. It is the sublime philosophy which boldly proclaims that the individual Soul (the jiva) is identical with the Supreme Soul or Brahman.
It is the only philosophy that can reunite, on the basis of the one common Self in all, different kinds of religions, cultures, races and personalities.
This knowledge is given to us by the Rishis, who were enlightened sages who had attained the highest level of knowledge. The Rishis taught that the nature of the Atma or the Self is Sat Chit Ananda.
The light represents the Knowledge which removes darkness or spiritual ignorance.
Touching the thumb and index finger together creates a mudra or hand position which helps knowledge to flow.
Sat Chit Ananda
Sat means existence absolute. It means that we are the immortal soul and we have never been born and we never die. Our body is to work out karma and it is temporary.
The idea is always to remember there is another dimension of ourselves that is beyond our body and its relationships and the changes that occur while in the body (relationships connected to the body are father, mother, relatives, family members who are only relating to the particular body and karmas of this lifetime…
One needs to pay duties towards them but know at the same time that we have had countless fathers, mothers, husbands, and wives in the past. Also stay detached when the body is getting older, diseased, and, eventually, dying).
Always remember the immortal Self and be detached from the body, and unafraid of death.
Chit means knowledge absolute. It means that we are the self of all; we know everything because we are the consciousness of all. We are the witness or observer of all changing phenomena, all changing names and forms.
Take the analogy of the screen that remains the same while the different movies are playing on it, or of the actor who remains the same despite all the different roles he plays.
Knowledge, according to yoga is not just intellectual or academic, but it is self knowledge which comes from experience of the Truth.
Yoga is a scientific method to find the Truth.
Ananda means bliss absolute. This means that all our sufferings are illusory.
It is like when a tiger is chasing you in a dream, and you get very scared. The only thing which you can do to escape the tiger is to wake up.
This world for yogi is just like a dream, and while it is relatively real, it is only real as far as you are sleeping. When you wake up, the dream is gone.
Enlightenment is similar to the state of waking up, and seeing things as they are. We are so afraid of so many things because we think that they are real.
It is like the analogy of mistaking a rope for a snake. A person walking in the dark thinks that he has stepped on a snake, and he gets afraid and starts to run; he almost has a heart attack. But, with light, we realize that it is a mistake; it was just a rope.
At no time was there a snake. The snake is only in his mind. At no time was there friends or enemies; they are only in your mind.
The same person that you love quickly becomes your enemy when you change your mind.
You desire something and that thing looks very good, but when you possess it, the illusion is gone. Then you chase after something else.
Happiness is our true nature
Unhappiness and negativity are unreal.
There is a story of the baby lion that thought that he was a sheep because he was raised by a mother sheep and lived with sheep all his life. He forgot his true nature as a lion until another lion (the Guru) came, and showed him his true nature. Then he roared like a lion instead bleating like a lamb.
Thus knowing that nothing can in reality hurt us and that the Self is all the time there, we face our challenges with courage instead of being weak.
We are all the time complaining and crying out of attachment and desires because we have forgotten our true nature as Sat Chit Ananda.
The practice of Self Enquiry, or “Who am I?” and the practice of Discrimination (right thinking) ultimately help us to face our illusions and remove our identification with the Not-self or with our changing mind, thus realizing our true Self as Sat Chit Ananda.
Ultimately, all the yoga practices are bringing us to realize our true nature and free us from the suffering that comes from identifying with our body, mind, and our ego. This is the real goal of yoga.
Yoga Teacher Training Course
Check out our 200-hour Yoga Alliance certified Yoga Teacher Training Courses offered twice a year in California, 3x in Vietnam, once in China and once in Japan.