In ancient times, the life was divided into four stages, the first two being for everyone, and the last two being primarily for the seekers. People then lived a healthy and long life, an average of about one hundred years, and each stage of life was given a period of approximate twenty five years. But knowing the uncertainty of life it was an individual choice how much time one wanted to spend in each stage. The reasoning behind each stage was very meaningful, and it still applies today.
The First Stage : Brahamacharya
The first 25 years of one’s life should be dedicated to receiving education, and developing skills etc. The Brahamacharya in this context means not to indulge in sensual pleasures in the first stage of life as they can be a big distraction to one’s education. During this stage, the practice of Hatha yoga, which includes asanas, pranayamas, and very limited amount of meditation is recommended. The main purpose of the yoga practice is to keep the body and mind healthy. The Bhakti yoga is practiced by means of praying, singing Divine songs, and cultivating faith in God. Those who are spiritually mature and inclined toward the spirituality from a very early age may follow the other paths of yoga as well, including Jnana yoga ( path of knowledge).
The Second Stage: Grihastha Ashram
The second stage is the family life. In a broader sense it means a worldly life. This is the stage for having a family , fulfilling career ambitions, earning money, and enjoying worldly pleasures etc. The recommended spiritual practices in this stage are the same as in the fist stage, with the addition of the karma yoga. It is highly encouraged and emphasized to serve, and to be helpful in the community.
In the above two stages of life, the Jnana yoga and meditations are kept to a minimum as they can interfere with one’s education, and worldly life. Receiving too much of higher knowledge at an early age can lead one into wrong knowledge. It can withdraw one’s mind inward partially, temporarily and prematurely . It may not happen to all, but it happen to many. They lose interest in their education, career, and family and social lives, only to regret later. To understand the knowledge, one needs a certain amount of worldly experience, and maturity. The first two stages of life, in addition to learning, earning, and enjoying, are also a tapas, necessary for training the mind and bringing some maturity to it. Many parents often ask me what is the right age for introducing spiritualty to their children? I always tell them not to be in a rush and not to give too much spirituality to their children at a young age. The best way to give spirituality to your children is to cultivate a loving and a values-rich environment in the house. The spiritualty begins at home. That’s why the second stage is called an ashram. Give your children the good values at home, and inspire and encourage them to be ambitious and successful in life. Too much spirituality at an early age can limit their growth. I know many parents who forced their children into too much spiritualty at an early age, and I also know many young boys and girls who themselves shunned the world with a hope to find a better world, now regret their decisions. Many of them are confused and conflicted, unsure of what they really want to do with their lives. For this reason, the second stage of life is very necessary to explore the world, fulfill some desires, become a better person, and to prepare the mind for the next two stages.
After spending about 25 years in the second stage, people who are happy in their worldly life , they may continue living the rest of their lives the same way. There is nothing wrong with it, but it is important to continue focusing on becoming a better person and doing more karma yoga. . But for those wanting to pursue spirituality, the third and the fourth stages are highly recommended. I will talk about them in the next post.
Vrindavan Calling! A Saucha (cleanliness) initiative
Vrindavan is a very sacred and special place for all Hindus, and millions of other spiritual seekers from all around the world. It has lots of beautiful and clean areas but it also has lots of very filthy and broken areas where you don’t want to be but you would like to be because of their historical and Holy association with Krishna and Radha. I have had often thought about doing something there, ,but ever since my last visit to Vrindavan my mind has been unsettled because I am not doing anything about it. That unsettledness in my mind has led to the clarity and commitment in my mind that being a Hindu and a devotee of Krishna, and someone who cares so much about the environment, I must do something. When things look so bad, one doesn’t know where to begin, but the only way is to begin somewhere. That’s what inspired me to schedule the yoga retreat in Vrindavan. One of the purposes of this retreat is to identify small projects which we can initiate. The instant and overwhelming response for the Retreat has reinforced the clarity and commitment in my mind. I already have some ideas which I will share during the Retreat and on my blog, and I am sure, together, we will have many more. But we must implement them and help in making Krishna’s abode clean and pretty, something we can be very proud of.
Whether you are on this yoga treat or not, if this initiative interests you, and you can help in any way, please write to me. As a starter, in order to raise funds, I am thinking of doing more than just one or two yoga retreats which I had originally planned., and all money raised from the yoga retreats will go toward this initiative. I personally will not take any.
Vrindavan is calling me. I must use this opportunity to practice SAUCHA in a very meaningful way! The waves of pure yoga in me are ascending higher and descending deeper than ever, and I look forward to sharing yoga with you like never before.
The Triangle Pose!
The Beginner Triangle Pose
The Advanced Triangle Pose
In the picture above, both legs and the right arm together represent the Three Guna, the three primary energies, that govern the universe. The Three Guna are: Sattava: Purity, blissful, positivity, peaceful, and calmness etc are some of the characteristics of Sattava energy Rajas: Activity on the physical and mental level are the primary characteristic of Rajas Tamas: Negativity, dullness, and wrong understanding are the primary characteristics of Tamas.
These three Guna are present everywhere and always. Neither of the Guna can be eliminated fully but, through the practice of proper yoga, their proportions can be altered. For example, when the dullness takes over, which is the dominance of Tamas energy, practicing some asanas can change most of the Tamas to Rajas energy, and then by meditating, the Rajas can be changed to Satava. However, some amount of Tamas and Rajas will still remain. The three Guna affect your mood, feelings, emotions, and energy level.
So, the legs and the right arm in the picture above represent the three Guna. Bending of the torso toward the floor symbolizes that you have no choice but to function in the world that is governed by the three Guna. The left arm stretched up toward the sky symbolizes that while functioning in the three Guna, one must transcend the Guna and not get effected by them. The face turned upward toward the sky symbolizes that a seeker’s focus, while functioning in the world, should be on the sky-like Self. Proper understanding, and proper living of the yogic knowledge are the two essential tools to transcend the Guna and to remain focused on the Self. The one who achieves such a state is a true practitioner of the Advanced Triangle Pose, and is known as a Bhavateetam.
Anidra was a Bhavateetam. He once said, “Yoga, when practiced in its true sense, cultivates vairagya in one’s mind, and its improper practice adds to one’s ignorance.”