In the west yoga has become synonymous with the aspect of physical exercises known as Hatha Yoga. However Yoga is a wide ranging set of spiritual teachings which seek to bring an aspirant closer to the Universal Self. The word yoga means “union” and in this case it is the union of a seeker with God or union with the transcedental consciousness. Sri Chinmoy says the essence of yoga is ” Yoga is our union with Truth.” Sri Chinmoy’s path encompasses all aspects of Yoga. The principle strands of Yoga being wellness
1. Hatha Yoga – physical exercises
2. Karma Yoga – Yoga of selfless action
3. Raja Yoga – Yoga of gaining control over mind
4. Bhakti Yoga – Yoga of love and devotion
5. Jnana Yoga – Yoga of wisdom
Hatha Yoga is the science of practising different yoga postures for the improvement of physica health and general well being. It has been well documented that regular practise of Hatha Yoga can also improve posture and also contribute to an improved state of mind.
Hatha Yoga is not an integral part of Sri Chinmoy’s yoga. Meditation and spiritual growth depend primarily on a seekers sincere inner cry. Sri Chinmoy says of Hatha Yoga
“If your aim is just to keep the body relaxed and fit, then Hatha Yoga will certainly help you. But if you want to complete your course in the inner life, you have to enter into the school of concentration, meditation and contemplation.”
But Sri Chinmoy does place great stress on the importance of physical health. A healthy body is of great benefit in the spiritual life. To this end Hatha Yoga can complement meditation very well. Several of Sri Chinmoy’s students offer Hatha Yoga classes such as Lotus Yoga in Ireland and Yoga centres in San Francisco and Seattle.These hatha yoga classes are held independently of meditation classes, but often there is an overlap with people benefiting from both.
Karma yoga is the yoga of dedicated action or selfless service. The aim of Karma Yoga is to engage in activities without attachment to the result. An example of this selfless service is the humanitarian aid programme founded by Sri Chinmoy called “Oneness Heart Tears and Smiles.” Staffed by volunteers from the Sri Chinmoy Centres the OHTS has collected aid for distribution in over 100 countries. In the spirit of Karma Yoga the OHTS programme aims to be more than charity but to extend a feeling of oneness with those less privileged in material needs.
Sri Chinmoy says of Karma Yoga
“Karma Yoga is desireless action undertaken for the sake of the Supreme. Karma Yoga is man’s genuine acceptance of his earthly existence. Karma Yoga is man’s dauntless march across the battlefield of life… Karma Yoga claims that life is a divine opportunity for serving God” (3)
Raja Yoga sometimes known as ashtanga Yoga is the yoga of gaining control over the mind in order to achieve liberation. In Raja yoga the aspirant practices concentration and meditation in order to still the mind. The great proponent of Raja yoga was Patanjali who described the various practices in a series of aphorisms. Sri Chinmoy’s approach to Raja Yoga and meditation is to take a path of simplicity. Sri Chinmoy recommends focusing on the spiritual heart. It is here in the spiritual heart that a seeker can gain access to the inner wealth of peace, love and happiness. By meditating in the mind it is more difficult to be unemcumbered with thoughts.
“Our path is basically the path of the heart and not the path of the mind. … The heart is all love.
The mind is quite often all confusion. When we say the heart, we mean the spiritual heart, which is flooded with divine love.”
– Sri Chinmoy
Sri Chinmoy Centres offer free meditation classes in cities around the world. The courses are aimed at beginners of meditation and are based on the meditation teachings of Sri Chinmoy. The classes are free at the request of Sri Chinmoy that spirituality should be available to all and not have a monetary fee.
Bhakti yoga is known as the yoga of devotion. Here a seeker seeks to attain union with God through an attitude of love, devotion and surrender. Sri Chinmoy’s yoga places great emphasis on devotion. For example his numerous songs emphasize a strong devotional approach, as does his early poetry.
Jnana Yoga is the yoga of wisdom. In Jnana yoga the aspirant strives to understand the mystery of the transcendental truth.
“A Jnana yogin declares: Neti, neti. “Not this, not this.” What does he mean? He means that there is a higher world than this sense-world, a higher truth than this earthbound truth. ”
– Sri Chinmoy
In one sense Sri Chinmoy does not give great importance to the mind, advocating instead the path of the heart. However his prolific literary output serves as a guide for those seeking to overcome mental obstacles. In particular his short aphorisms and poems (which number over 100,000) and designed as spiritual instruction.