The real goal of Yoga is to understand oneself by making the mind clean and calm. Yoga is not just a set of physical postures, meditation, and breathing techniques. Yoga helps us to develop mental purity and serenity, which are both necessary to understand oneself. That is the purpose of Yoga and all the yogic practices have this aim in mind. The physical postures also help us to achieve mental serenity. Through physical serenity, through a healthy and relaxed body, we can easily experience mental peace.

The condition of the body has a lot to do with the condition of the mind. So we take care of the body by practicing certain postures, which are called asanas, and eating a clean diet. Asanas are different from exercises; they are poses that are held for a certain length of time, in a relaxed, steady way. Through the practice of asana, proper diet, and observing proper virtues the mind remains calm. These virtues are mentioned in almost every religious scripture; “Thou shall not kill, thou shall not lie, thou shall not steal.”

These virtues help us to keep the mind calm. The person who tells a lie, steals another person’s property, or hurts others, can never be peaceful because all these undesirable habits would disturb the mind. The purpose of the Ten Commandments is also to keep the mind clean or pure. Yoga is not a religion; there is no need for another religion,  but in the name of Yoga, we present the fundamentals of every faith and these fundamentals are the foundation of Yoga.

To know oneself, one has to have a calm mind. You will see the same idea in the Bible. In one of the Beatitudes, Jesus says, “Blessed are the pure in heart, they shall see God.” Whoever is pure in heart, they will see God. This same idea is presented in Sri Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras, one of the Yoga scriptures. Thousands of years ago, this great Yoga master taught that a calm mind is like a mirror. If you keep your mind pure, clean, and calm, you will see yourself in that mirror-like mind, as the image of God. If we just change a few words, but not the meaning, the Bible quote could read: ‘’Blessed are those who keep their mind pure, for they shall see themselves as God, in that pure mind.’’

Many people will say, “But I don’t even know who or what God is. Is God a He, She, or an It?” Some people say “He,” some people use “She,” and some people try to compromise by using, “It,” which is also appropriate because “It” cannot be defined and you also cannot define God. The very instrument with which you try to define God has its own limitation. God is something abstract, unlimited, and infinite. It is with a finite mind that they’re trying to describe infinite qualities. Still, I am simply using the word “God,” even though I know many people are really tired of the confusion and say, “I don’t even like to write or hear the word, ‘God.’”

So many millions are even massacred in the name of God. That means that God has been very much misunderstood. So then, what is God? Is God a “something,” or a person? Various religions present God with various names, in various forms, and sometimes just with symbols. But, they’re all partial expressions because we are trying to understand the unlimited with our limited mind.

A simple way to think of God is to use the qualities that you see in nature. There is tranquility in nature. There is impartiality in nature. There is a neutrality in the nature. Nature never takes sides. Rain doesn’t care whether a person is a saint or a sinner so it just pours equally on everyone. The sun shines upon everyone equally. Even the person who curses the sun also gets the sunlight. Air is given freely to everybody. Air contains vital energy that comes in through the breath and in a sense we pollute the air just by inhaling it. Yet, even the energy to pollute the air comes from the air. If the air lost its neutrality, and got disturbed by our pollution, it could refuse to come in and then it would be our loss. But the air says, “My job is to give to whoever wants to breathe, regardless of what they do with me.”

So, all of nature’s energies are neutral. It is this neutrality and tranquility or peace, that is what you call “God.” You see this same neutrality in a flower. It never says, “No, no, no, why are you looking at me? Somebody else planted me and watered me so I will only give my beauty to that person.”

(Illustration: Satyam, Sivam, Sundaram in Sanskrit with Om symbol above.)

In the Sanskrit language, God is defined as satyam, sivam and sundaram. Satyam means Truth. What is, is God. God is always. That means there is the is in everything. The is exists even before the flower. The is becomes the flower. It is a flower, it is a microphone. That is a baby. So that is—or the existence—is what you call Truth.

Sivam means the pure essence that is Consciousness itself. Consciousness is always pure, always neutral. By purity we mean uncolored, without any spots. The absolute meaning of purity is neutrality. If you lose the neutrality, you are no longer pure. If you take sides, you are no longer pure. So if even a so-called religious person comes forward and says, “This is my religion and it is the best, they are not pure because they have taken sides. They has not understood God. It is that purity that needs to be attained by everybody who wants to know God. “Blessed are the pure in heart.” Pure heart means like a baby because babies don’t take any sides—whether or not you are rich or poor, black or white, they will just crawl onto your lap. That is what you call sivam and that is also a quality of God.

Sundaram means beauty and in neutrality there is beauty—not finite beauty, but infinite beauty. Sundaram is what you call cosmic beauty. Unfortunately, much of the world depends upon the cosmetic beauty, forgetting entirely about the cosmic beauty. These are the qualities that are associated with God. If you can recognize the existence, the neutrality, and the beauty in something or somebody then you are recognizing God. If you have that capacity, if your mind is like that, then you also are that beauty.

You are born neutral and then you are educated to take sides. Young children are taught that it is okay if one kind of thing breaks, but not another kind of thing. If you lose a toy in the shape of a dog, your parents won’t worry about it. But, if you lose a real dog they will worry. These values are taught as the child is educated and the young children are injected with many kinds of  divisions, positives, and negatives and so they lose their charm; they lose their neutral divinity. Until then, the face of a baby or young child looks beautiful, divine. You are all born with that divine face and gradually, when you lose your natural neutrality, you lose that beauty also. But as a baby, you will give a beautiful smile to everyone.

As a grownup, if somebody says something nice to you, you think, Oh wonderful, that person is great. If somebody just says something that you don’t like, immediately they become an enemy. In that way you divide things and you take sides. Therefore, the purity is lost and the neutrality is lost so the beauty also is lost. Then you have to make up for the lost the beauty with makeup from the store.

All those three qualities: Satyam, sivam, and sundaram are what you call God and they are within you. The Bible also says that: “God made man in his own image.” Well, probably a man wrote it. If a woman wrote it she would have said, “God made woman in Her own image.” If a buffalo wrote the book it would have said, “God made buffalo in It’s own image! We all write scriptures for our own use. But the proper understanding is that God made everything in Its own image. That means in everything you will see Satyam, sivam, and sundaram: The truth of being, pure Consciousness, and the bliss (or beauty). In Sanskrit it’s called: Sat-chid-ananda. It exists, it expresses and it brings joy: Sat = existence/beingness, chid = knowledge/Consciousness, ananda = the bliss that you derive from being (essence-nature).

The Sat-chid-ananda are the basic things which you see in every atom. But beyond these three you also have a name and a form. It is only in the names and forms that we differ. So if you just ignore the form and name, then we are all Sat-chid-ananda. We all exist and there is an awareness of it, and there is a joy of it. That is experienced as, “I Am That I Am.” But we don’t remain in that knowledge. We seem to have lost that truth.

We have identified ourselves as the body and mind and mixed our true self with things with which we are associated. If you are associated with money you become a millionaire. If you are associated with a country you become an American, or European, or Indian. If you associate yourself with the color of your skin you become white, or black, or brown. If you associate yourself with the size of the body you become heavy or thin. It’s a wrong identification. You define yourself with the things with which you associate. In a way, you are caught in that association and that is what you call bondage. You are bound up by your association, by your wrong identification. It’s not that you should avoid associating with things, because association can be useful. But don’t identify yourself as that, don’t let it divide you and keep you feeling separate from others and from who you really are in Spirit.

When you free yourself from all those identities then you are the pure “I”. You say, ”I Am,” and “I am using my body,” “I am using my brain,” and “I am using my intelligence.” They are all instruments and I am using them. That is when you put yourself in that genuine, “I” position. But that kind of understanding doesn’t comes easily. Normally we function as a body and a mind, so the scriptures say, Okay, let us begin from where you are. You think you are the body, you are the mind, take care of it. Keep them clean, pure, and serene. That is what we do in the name of all the practices that are presented as Yoga. We learn to keep the body and mind clean. It is very, very important, because without your physical and mental cleanliness, or mental and physical health, you cannot serve others.

By Sri Swami Satchidananda