by Acarya Shiilabhadrananda Avadhuta
Ananda Marga teaches Tantra Yoga as a transformational tool designed to give the practitioner deep happiness, a universal perspective on life, and spiritual awakening. Ananda Marga believes that such yoga is a resource to be used for the betterment of the individual and human society.
We are in the midst of a revolutionary change in human consciousness. More than ever before, we are questioning old values, doubting the way we have always done things, trying to make sense of a world which seems to lurch from one crisis to another: oil, food, stock markets, economy, water.
The remarkable changes that have globalized society in the last 20 years are pushing us towards adopting a new paradigm of living. Whether it be the field of medicine, social justice, the green movement, revelations in science or the spiritual renaissance, we are in the midst of sweeping changes not seen since the dawn of civilization. Hence the explosion of interest in meditation, yoga, alternative healing practices, eco-friendly homes and workplaces, strengthening of local economies, vegetarianism, and a host of other new trends that are reconfiguring the way we think and live.
In this flux of change and unfamiliarity it would be easy to become confused and frightened. What is the best education for my kids? How do I meet my innate spiritual needs when traditional religions seem to fall short? How can I find kinship and community in an increasingly fast-paced, individualistic approach to survival?
The ancient holistic tradition of Tantra Yoga is making an increasing impact in the thinking of people everywhere interested in new ways of living in harmony with oneself and the world.
“The most beautiful experience we can have is the mysterious. It is the source of all true art and science.”
According to the philosophy of Tantra Yoga, the Universe is a resultant of the interplay between Consciousness and Its Creative Principle. The Cycle of Creation Cosmic Cycle) is seen to be manifested in two phases: from the very subtle (Supreme Consciousness) to the very crude (inert matter) and from the very crude to the very subtle again. Within this cosmic scheme of things, the human being may be found on the upper levels of this returning cycle, as he/she approaches the final stages of the cosmic evolution. As human beings we are the most consciously evolved beings, although it may sometimes appear otherwise. It is essential that humans assume full responsibility for their unique talents and abilities and utilize them for the advancement of all beings with which we co-inhabit the planet with.
Yogic philosophy states that the creation is the result of the crudification of invisible, unqualified consciousness by the creative principles inherent within itself.
These creative principles can be divided into three categories according to their degree of influence over the consciousness. They are sometimes referred to simply as “forces of nature”, for they exist at all times in all things and all beings. They are:
• Sattvic (sentient) principle: This binding quality is the most subtle. It is associated with awareness, purity, happiness, sensitivity and lightness.
• Rajasic (mutative) principle: This binding quality is less subtle than the first. It is associated with change, growth, movement, restlessness and activity.
• Tamasic (static) principle: This binding quality is the crudest of the three. It is associated with decay, degeneration, ignorance, death and inertia.
A few examples will help us understand the interplay of these constantly interacting forces. Did you ever observe a flower? Its beauty, luster and shine are evidence of the dominance of the sentient force. Its growth and development from the seed are evidence of the mutative force. When it begins to decay, shed its petals and whither, this is the manifestation of the static force.
What about yourself? When you wake up in the morning, you fight hard to conquer the static waves that dominate your body and mind – you would just rather sleep more! During the height of the day, you don’t seem to be able to slow down – the mutative force is very manifested in you at that time. But when you retire to view a beautiful sunset or take a walk in the nature, you feel uplifted by the sentient force that dominates your mind at that time.
The word Yoga comes from the Sanskrit word yunj, which means “to unify”. The unity envisioned in yoga is a mystical state of Oneness with all of Creation. It is a rare mental state realized by mystics, prophets and sages throughout history in many lands. For some it is considered the highest level of consciousness attainable. In different cultures it is known by different names: samadhi, nirvana, satori, salvation, enlightenment and so on.
But Yoga is also a path or methodology leading to the state of Oneness. Whether we believe we can ever attain those lofty heights, it is true that many people are benefiting from the many changes that they experience as a result of a systematic practice of the various components of the Yogic lifestyle. Some of those components include: observance of universal ethical principles, practice of asanas (yoga postures), deep breathing, sense withdrawal, concentration and meditation.
Although Yoga is more commonly understood today as being yoga postures (asanas), this is only one aspect of a whole spectrum of practices that gradually and subtly develop us physically, mentally, socially and spiritually.
Some people believe that the emerging relevance of Yoga practice and philosophy will assist humanity in bridging the gap between the old and new ways of looking at ourselves and our world.
The Tantra Yoga taught in Ananda Marga is totally compatible with this emerging way of life. The lessons of meditation in Ananda Marga are taught freely to anyone interested to learn. Yoga postures, diet, fasting and a host of other holistic practices are also gradually introduced to the new aspirant according to his/her capacity and willingness to understand and incorporate these habits into his/her lifestyle.