Radhanath Swami was interviewed for the Russian edition of Yoga Journal magazine on March 22nd 2012. Yoga Journal’s reporter mentioned that often, western people do not know which type of yoga they should practice or whether they will benefit from yoga not only bodily but spiritually as well. Below is his response.
“There is a verse in the Bhagavd-gita – “ye yatha mam prapadyante tams tathaiva bhajamy aham“, which means, “as we approach the Lord, the Lord reciprocates accordingly”. So according to what we want we may limit ourselves to what we get. So, in the Vedas, the principle of yoga includes every aspect of life. The idea is that we have a body, a mind and an atma, a living force – and yoga means to harmonize the three perfectly, so that our body and mind are in our harmony with our living force. There are aspects of yoga for good health and fitness, and if that is all you want then that is what you will get. If you want health and fitness plus peace of mind, if you practice properly, then that is what you will get. But if you really go to the spiritual aspect of yoga, which is actually the purpose of yoga, to reunite the body and mind to be in harmony with the living force, the soul – then that is what you will get.”
“The soul is sat, cid, ananda – eternal, full of knowledge and full of bliss. And the real purpose of yoga, as presented by the great yoga masters of ancient times, is to connect us to our own eternal blissful nature. And Pantajali, who is one of the great founders of the yoga tradition, he taught, ‘Ishvarapranidhana’, that surrender to Ishvara, which is a very personal conception of God – God meaning the cause of all causes, the source of everything, the source of all love and beauty – that surrender to the Ishvara is the perfection of samadhi. So yoga means to realize our own eternal nature with Ishvara, with the Supreme and to understand ahimsa (nonviolence), the principle of yoga within yama and niyama. Ahimsa means when we understand our own divine source, we can understand that every living being has that same divine source and that every living being is a part of Ishwara and therefore one should honor and respect and not cause violence to any living being.”
“So really, if you want to have a healthy body, yoga is one of the best most comprehensive processes to have a healthy fit body. If you want peace of mind through the stresses of this challenging world, yoga has one of the greatest scientific systems of giving us peace of mind and stability and freeing us from stress. But the whole purpose of all of these things is to make us instruments of love and peace, and to connect us to our own atma, our own indestructible force. Because ultimately, however fit our body is and peaceful our mind is, if our body dies, yoga is to take us beyond birth and death, to our own eternal nature and thats the beauty and glory of the yoga system. It can bring us to that point. In the Bhagavad-gita’s sixth chapter, which describes the Ashtanga Yoga system, Krishna concludes, ‘yoginam api sarvesam mad-gatenantar-atmana”, that of all yogis one who serves the Supreme Lord with love and devotion, with deep faith and realization, is most intimately united with Him in yoga and is the highest of all. So that opportunity is there, to be an instrument of God or Krishna’s blessing, and really make change in the world.”