Why Should We Practice Yoga? #1

Right now, mankind is facing the biggest existential crisis they have ever faced on this planet. Every country on earth is locked down to save humanity from the deadliest Corona virus pandemic. Man has found himself in a frightful condition today, but so great is the effect of illusion (Maya) and complacency which it breeds that we not only don’t wonder about human life and tremble at our destiny but soon will go through life absorbed in frivolous pursuits, often submerged in a sense of self-importance. We will continue to live in ignorance, oblivious and unaware of our own essential nature and purpose of life. The goal of yoga is to end the suffering caused by this ignorance and liberate the soul from Samsara (cycle of births and deaths). A study of Sankhya Philosophy is recommended to better understand Yoga Philosophy as the former deals with creation while the latter deals with the reverse process (Pratiprasava), i.e., going back to the original state.


According to Sankhya Philosophy, all the realities in our experiences can be reduced to two fundamental eternal substances – Prakrti or Matter (unconscious object) and Purusa (Conscious Self). Every object is seen to possess 3 characters or Gunas – Sattva (produces pleasure), Rajas (causes suffering) and Tamas (induces indifference). Prakrti is nothing but these three Gunas in a perfect state of balance, and from which this universe evolves. The cosmic principles or elements such as Intellect, Ego, Mind, Subtle elements (hearing, touch, taste, sight and smell), Gross elements (space, air, water, fire and earth), Sense organs (ear, skin, eyes, tongue, and nose) and Organs of action (mouth, hands, legs, reproductive and excretory organs) evolve from the Prakrti. Purusa on the other hand is a conscious entity which is all pervading, eternal, pure, unattached, and blissful in nature. Creation takes place by the permutation and combination of Cosmic elements and Purusa getting involved with these elements as per his karma (subliminal impressions). The involvement activates the senses and entangles Purusa with pleasure and pain until he extricates himself through a Yogic process called Pratiprasava (back to Consciousness/the original state). The philosophy of Klesas in Yoga Sutra gives insights into causes for suffering and the yogic processes involved in removing the misery and resolving back to original state.

Causes of Misery/Suffering (Klesas)

According to the Philosophy of Klesas, the False understanding of Reality (Avidya), the Sense of self-importance (Asmita), Attractions (Raga) and Repulsions (Dvesa) towards objects and Fear of death (Abhinivesa) are the causes of all suffering in life.

Avidya (False understanding of Reality)

Avidya is the breeding ground of all the other Klesas (miseries). When consciousness gets involved in matter owing to the power of Maya, knowledge of its own nature is lost. This results in false perception of Reality, i.e., Impermanent is seen as Permanent, Impure as Pure, Pain as Pleasure and Non-Self as Self.

Asmita (I-am-ness, Ego)

Avidya or the false understanding manifests as pride engrossing us in a sense of self-importance; the pure ‘I am’ changes to ‘I am this body, mind, intellect, feeling etc’.

Raga (Attraction) and Dvesa (Repulsion)

Having lost its blissful nature after coming in contact with matter, consciousness gropes for bliss in the external world and anything which provides even a glimpse of bliss in the form of happiness or pleasure gets attracted to it leading to attachments. Similarly, repulsion or resentment is felt towards any person or object which is the source of pain or unhappiness. These attractions and repulsions are responsible for much of human misery and suffering.

Abhinivesa (Fear of death)

The fear of death is well established even in a well learned yogi. Mere knowledge of the Reality is in itself inadequate for freeing a man from this attachment to life. Unless and until the Klesas are destroyed, through the yogic discipline the attachment to life will continue, causing endless suffering.

Methods to alleviate Suffering

When Klesas are in potential state, like a small distasteful thought that arise when the conditions are favourable, deal with them quickly; don’t take them for granted. We should be alert about what kind of thoughts we entertain. The potential thoughts if not checked becomes active and manifests as anger or hatred. By practicing Kriya Yoga and Dhyana, the Klesas in the active state can be attenuated to a potential state and then destroyed completely. Austerity, self-study and prayer constitute Kriya Yoga. Dhyana is meditation or contemplation in order to understand the deeper problems of life and to solve them effectively for the liberation of Self from Samsara.

Now we know why we should practice yoga. But the path of yoga is not easy, the effort required to bring about fundamental change in our thinking is harder than the harsh realities of life today. But we should begin!

-End of Part 1-

Yogrishi Sai

Yoga Scholar-Practitioner-Teacher Belonging to the tradition of Krishnamacharya

|| End of #1 of Why Should We Practice Yoga? More to follow on this important topic. My thoughts are influenced by the tradition of Sri Krishnamacharya and interactions with fellow teachers. Copyright reserved ||

Published on 10th April 2020


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