Yoga is now known and practiced all over the world. This is because it’s not only for people who believe in religion, spirituality, or a particular philosophy. The yogic teachings comprise the very same foundation that is found in all faiths and religions. And, even atheists can practice Yoga because of its universal ethical and practical applications. We include the person who doesn’t have any formal faith, because that is their faith. Through Yoga, you see the essential part of any faith’s basic foundation.

When we talk about or practice Yoga, it isn’t necessary to speak about God, or any particular religion. Yoga presents a way to fulfill the one common goal that we all have, regardless of personal faith and belief. We all have something in common in that we all want to be happy, always. Happiness is our goal. You won’t find anybody in this world who wants to be unhappy. Whatever people do, ultimately this is their goal. If you ask a person: “Why do you want to have lots of money?”

“Well, I want to be happy.”

“Why do you want to beautify yourself?”

“I want to be happy.”

“Why do you want to amass so many arms and ammunitions?”

“I want to be safe and protected so I can be happy.”

Even the people who, unfortunately, want to end their lives, would give the same reason. They may not be using the very same words but might say, “I want to put an end to my unhappiness.” That means even at the cost my life, I want to be happy. We are not ready to lose our happiness for anything in this world. This is also true for other species. If you bring a plant into a dark corner and leave it there it’s unhappy; it wants a little sunlight. It slowly bends towards the window.

It is that happiness that we call God. God is not found in a particular form and is not limited by a particular name. God can be approached with any form and any name, because essentially, God is unlimited. Peace, happiness, universal love are the different aspects of God. If we accept the idea that God is happiness, then we are all in pursuit of God. The Sannyasis, or Hindu monks, always have a name ending with “ananda,” which means bliss. This means that they have found that happiness or bliss within themselves. Scriptures say that we are all part of that bliss; we are all made in that ananda, or image of God.

You might ask, “If that is so, why is it that we don’t recognize it. We don’t feel that ananda always. Why is it that I don’t feel that I am the image of God?” People want scientific proof. In this age of scientific development, we are beginning to understand more and more the great teachings of Yoga and the Vedanta philosophy. What the ancient yogis realized through their intuition is now being shown to be true and understood through science and technology. So, is there anything that could prove to you that you are the image of God? Well, we have the expression, “Seeing is believing.”

People don’t want to believe anything without seeing it first, experiencing it themselves. The Yoga teachings give practical steps to take so that you can experience this bliss, this ananda, or God. It is not a question of blind faith. Yoga never says you must practice this and that for ten years and then, all of a sudden, you will be in bliss. In our modern times we want everything instantaneously. We have instant coffee, instant tea, why should we not have instant samadhi or nirvana?

And of course, so many young people in the 1960s and 70s were trying to get that instant samadhi in other ways. They just wanted to swallow a cube of LSD in the mouth. And when that failed, some started experimenting with other drugs. Unfortunately, even that fails to give permanent results. The reason is that samadhi is not something that can come from the outside, by doing something. You are not going to have that happiness by doing anything. On the other hand, by doing something you are disturbing your inner happiness. That’s the reason why I tell people that I have total faith in one religion: “Undoism.” Yoga and every spiritual tradition asks you to undo. That is the foundation of any religion: Undo, undo. You have done enough damage. You have disturbed your happiness and now you are looking for it outside. So stop all the disturbing and you will see the happiness is already there, within you, as your True Nature.

Yoga really brings us together by making us understand the foundation of a peaceful life—keeping the mind calm. That is why biofeedback and all the other beautiful scientific tools are very useful. They can show you the restlessness of your mind is. Since seeing is believing, these methods can show the state of the mind through waves. You can see it for yourself. If someone just says to you that you are very disturbed, you will get even more disturbed and you’ll snap back, “How dare you say that to me!” You don’t even want to accept that you are disturbed. But if a machine tells you the same thing then you see it with your own eyes. Then you can try to get the type of brain wave that indicates the mind has become more calm. Science is helping us a lot in this way.

Keeping the mind calm is not that easy if you allow the body and breath to be restless. By learning the Hatha Yoga practices, you can take care of the body, remove all the toxins so it can relax. Our bodies are naturally so flexible, so relaxed. Look at babies. Notice how they can move their arms and legs any which way. As a baby, you were easeful. Now, after eating all kinds of beautiful, tasty and delicious things, you have filled your body with many toxins and the toxins have made the body rigid and tight. If you eliminate the toxins, you will go back to having the flexibility of a baby’s body again.

Eliminate the toxins of the body, the body becomes at ease. You were easeful before but when you disturbed your ease by your wrong behaviors you got into dis-ease. Disease is nothing but disturbed ease. That’s why, in the name of Yoga, be mindful of the food you eat. Be careful about everything that goes in the mouth. And also pay attention to the breath: Do not allow the breath to become agitated. Do some Nadi Suddhi, a gentle alternate nostril breathing technique that calms the mind and the body. By taking care of the breath you indirectly take care of the mind. They’re interconnected. And at the same time, take care of your relationship with people and things. That also can affect your mind. So, take care your daily life, which includes your relationships, food, breathing, and physical health. In addition, at least theoretically, understand who you are. All these approaches will help you to realize your true nature and to become a true yogi and always enjoy your peaceful nature.

By Sri Swami Satchidananda