Be a Sadhaka!
Speech by Dr. B.K.S. Iyengar "Guruji"
03 January 2011
Happy to see you all. Itís a great joy. Actually itís too late,
because we left (Haridwar) too late. But your affection made me
come to meet you all, then proceed to the airport. Iím very,
very happy to see you all full of joy, gay! It touches me. I
donít know what you want me to talk about. Yoga is like an
ocean. An ocean cannot be grasped in a few minutes. It is the
same with yoga.
As you are all sadhakas (spiritual adepts), donít be
abhyasis (practitioners). There is a vast difference between
a practitioner, known as abhyasi, and a sadhaka.
You should be a sadhaka and not just an abhyasi.
Even though Patanjali (Yoga Sutra 1.12,13) starts with the word
abhyasa (practice), which is mechanical, because he wants
people to get mechanically accustomed to the subject, but then
he says that we cannot remain an abhyasi (practitioner)
forever. You have to go further and become a sadhaka. A
sadhaka needs sadhana (inner practice). Abhyasa
does not need so much effort, but a sadhaka has to make a
great effort to reach there, to achieve through Sadhana
what it gives to us and not what we want. Therefore, let me tell
you the quality of a sadhaka.
When we practice yoga, we should see if whatever we perceive
through our vision, have we understood that very clearly. For
example, when I see my toe, I should question myself, Have I
seen my toe very clearly? It means, probably you may not
understand me, but even if the nail takes a tame shape from this
end to that end, or if there is a crest in the nail, it means
that your sadhana is wrong. That is called unattended
sadhana. So to become a sadhaka he needs to do
shodhana kriya (searching practice). Sadhana starts
with shodhana kriya. First, you have to search what is
perceivable in you, you have to see and find out whether each
and every part of what you see, have you really attended it with
your mind and intelligence. As long as the intelligence is not
felt, I donít call that a sadhana. You know, medical
science tell us that in this body there is a nervous system of
16,000 kilometres, which I do not believe, because they say that
there is about 96,000 kilometres of blood circulation. Each pore
of the skin is a nerve end. Therefore, if there is 96,000
kilometres of blood circulation, then there must be 96,000
kilometres of neural system as well. It cannot be shorter. If it
is shorter, there is a short circuit. That is a disease. A short
circuit means we get a disease.
So when we practice, we have to think with a totally free mind,
with an open mind; where is my attention, where it is not? Where
is my mind aware, where my mind is not aware. It should be aware
in its own frontier of the body. The mind has no other
frontiers. Similarly, the Self's frontier is the body.
Shariri (master of the body) is this soul and sharira
(the body) is its temple. The soul has to penetrate each and
every cell of your body, and allow this Self to rest on that
cell. This is known as shodhana kriya (searching
If this doesn't happen, then the next step is that you have to
make your intention successful by shoshana kriya
(cleansing practice). What is missing for the Self, for the
intelligence to return there? What am I to do? In which way, if
I present the shoshana kriya, the cleansing process takes
place, so that the impurities in the body are removed, so that
the Self can move without interruption according to the way you
present it? The Self has to follow your presentation.
Then comes shobhana kriya (beautifying practice). When
shoshana kriya (cleansing practice) and shodhana kriya
(searching practice) get together, the mind becomes auspicious.
The auspicious state is felt, but not just with the mind. Please
donít think that I am peaceful. I want each and every part to be
peaceful. I want even the tip of the skin to become peaceful.
That is known as shobhana kriya (beautifying practice).
There the entire frontier of this Self feels the auspicious
Then after that state comes shamana kriya (pacifying
practice). This shamana kriya is nothing else but what we
call shavasana or samadhi. Shavasana and
Samadhi are identical, provided we understand the depth of
the subject. Please don't think Shavasana is just lying
down. Shavasana is to see that your mind stretches like
water and finds its evenness. So shavasana makes this
Self to float evenly, to rest on its surface evenly, on the
surface of the entire human body, even though there is so much
tension in the body. This is what I call sadhana.
So please watch yourselves when you practice and ask Ė am I
penetrating all these areas? For example, you must have been
doing shirshasana. How many of you ever thought that your
big toe is active, but the little toe is not active? Can you
tell me that all my five toes are active?
See that is known as unattended sadhana (spiritual
inward practice). There the intelligence has slipped. You were
not able to keep the intelligence there. Watch your
sarvangasana, the little toe is active, but not the big toe.
Asanas are identical, all are inverted, but we don't know
the difference. So, to follow the mind or to follow the
dictations of the body is not spiritual sadhana. You can
call it skeleto-muscular physical exercises. But if you change
the avenue of your body according to the intuitive knowledge,
then I say, that leads automatically to your spiritual life. For
me asana is a prayer, because I have completely sunk into
it. So when I am filled with the literary meaning and the
literary feeling of that asana, I am in the bhavana
(reflection), not in the Asana. Bhavana means to
be completely engulfed in that presentation of watching, not as
an actor, but as an observer. The body acts, but the Self
observes. If you practice in this way, you will experience a
very different transformation in yourself.
So it is good what you are all doing, but do not be satisfied in
what you do. Use that doing as a spur to prick your
intelligence, to activate it in your body. The
intelligence has to be pricked second to second, moment to
moment, so that it doesn't go to sleep; so that the intelligence
becomes one, a single unit, from the skin to the Self and from
the Self to the skin. This union is yoga. In whatever step you
are today in the field of yoga, you will reach that level.
For example, Iíll give you an example. We all speak of
bahiranga, antaranga and antaratma sadhana, or
external, internal and innermost sadhana. But how many
people know that ahimsa (non-violence) and satya
(truth), the first two yamas and the first step of yoga
in "ahimsa-satya-steya-brahmacharya-parigrahaa yamaah"
(non-violence, truth, abstention from stealing, continence, and
absence of greed for possessions beyond one's need are the five
pillars of yama, Yoga Sutra 2.30), are external and not
internal. They are external because himsa (violence) and
asatya (lie) only come into existence when you come in
contact with the other person. Only then these two act. If you
are alone, there is no himsa (violence), there is no
asatya (lie). So that is the external part of yama.
What is the internal part? asteya (abstention from
stealing) and brahmacharya (continence). See the
interesting way in which Sage Patanjali presents it. These two
are individual. They have nothing to do with the object. They
are within you. Therefore internal cleansing is essential. Then
innermost is aparigraha (absence of greed), freedom from
greediness, covetousness. This is all internal, not external.
Only those two, ahimsa (non-violence) and satya
(truth), are connected to the external world. The others are
connected to the internal world of the human being. Similarly,
if you take the niyamas, shauca (cleanliness) and
santosha (contentment) are external, tapas
(religious zeal) and svadhyaya (self-study) are internal.
Ishvara pranidhana (surrender of the Self to the supreme
Self) is innermost.
Similarly, let us consider the asanas. You all talk of
comfortably doing an asana - "sthira-sukham asanam"
(asana is perfect firmness of body and benevolence of
spirit, Yoga Sutra 2.46). That is not correct, you have to read
it the other way. "Prayatna-shaithilya-ananta-samaapattibhyaam"
(perfection in an asana is achieved when the effort to
perform it becomes effortless and the infinite being within is
reached, Yoga Sutra 2.47). You have to keep on doing a great
effort till you reach that infinite state of quietness. That is
known as an external approach.
"Tato dvandva-anabhighatah" (From then on, the sadhaka
is undisturbed by dualities, Yoga Sutra 2.48) talks of an
internal approach. When I'm doing an asana or
pranayama, my mind is not oscillating, my mind is not
vacillating. There is no oscillation and vacillation. This is
referred to by "sthira-sukham asanam" (asana is
perfect firmness of body and benevolence of spirit, Yoga Sutra
2.46). You should have interpreted it the other way. Then your
mind is in poise, your body is in peace. So as the body and mind
meet in peace, there is no movement at all. This is antaratma
sadhana (innermost sadhana).
Similarly in pranayama, I could go on and on explaining.
Even in dhyana (meditation), there is external and there
is internal. For example, Patanjali (Yoga Sutra 3.4,7) calls
dharana (concentration), dhyana (meditation),
samadhi (absorption of consciousness in the Self) -
antaranga samyama (internal integration). But nobody knows
what is bahiranga samyama (external integration).
So yama-niyama is character building.
Asana, pranayama, pratyahara
(internalization of the senses towards their source) - is
science connected with yoga. Because scientific research can be
done only in these three areas. Do not believe that science can
study meditation. It's impossible to understand a man that has
entered the state of samadhi (absorption of consciousness
in the Self). What happens to him, no science can touch.
Asana, pranayama, pratyahara are bahiranga samyama
(external integration), of which a scientific study is possible.
This is why yoga is an art, science and philosophy. Yama -
niyama is art. Asana pranayama and pratyahara
is science. Dharana dhyana samadhi is darshana
(philosophy). This is how yoga is divided.
The, you have to conquer annamaya kosha (skeleto-muscular
body), pranamaya kosha (physiological or vital body),
manomaya kosha (mental body), vijnanamaya kosha
(discriminative intellectual body) and anandamaya kosha
(blissful body). These are the five koshas (layers or
sheaths), all of you may be knowing. Tejas tattva (fire
element), in the form of manomaya kosha (mental body), is
in the middle. Manomaya kosha (mental body) controls
both, the prithivi tattva (earth element) and the
ap-tattva (water element) on one side, and the sukshma
(subtle) elements, vayu tattva (wind element) and
akasha tattva (space element), on the other side. So in our
practices we have to measure these four elements controlled by
this scale of justice, the manomaya kosha (mental body).
So how much you have to utilize your mind, how much you have to
purge your mind, how much you have to purge your intelligence,
so that prithivi (earth), ap (water), the
sthula bhutas (gross elements) on one side, and the
sukshma bhutas (subtle elements) on the other side are
balanced in our presentation, so that one is not above and one
is not below. This is how the asanas have to be done. If
you do that you will experience the One, which, as I often say,
others do not know about. That will bring this soul, which is
imprisoned in a cave - in fact, in seven caves - into freedom.
I hope you have understood me. Anandamaya kosha (blissful
body) is not Atmamaya kosha (abode of the Soul), actually
it is chittamaya kosha (abode of the chitta - mind
intellect and ego). After that comes dharmamaya kosha
(sheath of conscience), what we call antah-karana (inner
organs - mind intellect and ego). After antahkarana
(inner organs - mind intellect and ego) is atmakosha
(abode of the Soul). So there are seven koshas (layers,
sheaths), even though we only know of five koshas
When the consciousness becomes quiet, then it rests in its own
abode - Yogash-chitta-vritti-nirodhah (yoga is the
cessation of movements in the consciousness, Yoga Sutra 1.2),
tada drashtuh svarupe-vasthanam (then, the seer dwells in
his own true splendour, Yoga Sutra 1.3). That is anandamaya
kosha (blissful body). But it belongs to chittamaya kosha
(abode of the chitta - mind, intellect and ego), not
atmamaya kosha (abode of the Soul).
This body is known as panchabhautika sharira (body
produced of five elements), so anandamaya kosha (blissful
body), which is akashamaya kosha (sheath consisting of
the space element) belongs to the panchabhautika sharira
(body produced of five elements). Atma (the Soul) in not
included under the panchabhautika sharira (body produced
of five elements). Atma is separate. Therefore there are
seven koshas (sheaths, layers), there are seven states of
You should know that the last two have nothing to do with the
pancha bhutas (five elements). The last two are known as
atma-jnana (knowledge of the Soul). When that atma-jnana
(knowledge of the Soul) comes together with sharira jnana
(knowledge of the body), or in simple language when instinct and
intuition both come together, that is yoga.
Instinct only flashes, but you don't know the time when it
flashes. But if you are alert, that instinct makes you to light
the lamp of your soul. Before that it does not allow the light
of the lamp, of the soul, to shine. So, please, be watchful at
what time the Prakriti (nature) flashes! We call it the
mother earth, Devi or Kundalini (divine power).
Kundalini is nothing but Prakriti (nature) according
to Sage Patanjali.
Therefore, the instinct which comes from Prakriti, has to
be caught by the Self and the Self has to make use of it.
Patanjali says, sva-svaami-shaktyoh svarupopalabdhihetuh
samyogah (the conjunction of the seer with the seen is for
the seer to discover his own true nature, Yoga Sutra 2.23).
sva (one's own) means the Prakriti (nature) which
shows or throws the light, svami (owner, master) has to
make use of it. So that he can experience this state of his
Self. This is what Patanjali says. So keep this in mind and
practice. God will bless you. Patanjali will bless you all.
Even today I practice six hours a day. Keep that in mind. I'm
not at all an armchair yogi. If I stand here,
I will be like fire. The mind is tejas tattva (fire
element). That Tej (fire) is still simmering in me. Thank
you very much. Practice regularly. Love...Labour with love and
laugh in failures. Donít feel alone or dejected. Accept that
failure as a light for you to make another attempt so that you
will reach what you have wanted to reach. So laugh in failure,
cry in success. Don't accept success too soon.
Edited from a speech delivered by Dr.
B.K.S. Iyengar "Guruji" at
Omkarananda Patanjala Yoga Kendra
(Iyengar Yoga Centre), Rishikesh, Uttarkhand, INDIA