What is the business of life then? – The state or quality that identifies living beings, characterized chiefly by growth, reproduction, and response to stimuli. Or simply put, enjoying the period between birth and death or between birth and the present time. Collins Dictionary and Thesaurus of the English Language lists nine definitions for business. Some of these, may suit our purpose – “a difficult or complicated matter;” – “proper or rightful concern or responsibility” or even “an affair or matter”. We may conduct our life to the best of our abilities. The origin of the word is from Old English – “bisignis” meaning care or attention. As for Oxford Dictionary, it defines life as “the condition that distinguishes animals and plants from inorganic matter, including the continual capacity to change preceding death. Or simply put existence. Many people just exist in fact from morning till night caught in the drudgeries of making a living.
How much attention do we really pay to life?
For the billions of people on planet Earth life may mean to each a different thing, according to the value system of the society in which they are living. Or life may be conditioned by what you eat, by your upbringing, your education, the régime of government under which the country operates, or the religious teachings of your community. Life is governed by so many different, myriad ways. We may choose to be conditioned or we may choose to be free.
How then do we free ourselves from all the entanglements that besiege us on our journey from birth to death? How much do we care for ourselves or pay attention to improve our understanding of ourselves?
It is interesting to note that the ancient Hindus discovered the Practice of Yoga to make the business of living a blissful experience, while maintaining the body and mind fit. Thus was developed the Ayurveda – which is the traditional Hindu system of medicine based on the idea of proper balance in the body system through dietary control, herbal treatment and the yoga of breathing.
This week a huge international conference is being held in Mauritius devoted precisely to this science or business of living, known as Ayush. Ayush means life in Sanskrit and when elders give their blessings they say “Ayushman Bhava” – Be blessed with longevity.
Now, getting on with the business of life itself holds the key to our well-being. We make our life or we mar it. Just as we are taught to read and write at school or are initiated into a job or a career, we keep learning. But people or children should also be taught the business of living – how to handle our lives so that we may learn to understand our innermost selves in order to enhance the quality of our life and enjoy it better. That’s what Indian system of medicine and Yoga do. With the proclamation of the International Day of Yoga last year on every 21 June by the United Nations through a proposal of Narendra Modi, Prime Minister of India, there has been increased awareness globally about the benefits of leading a life of quality.
Disciplining our mind
Indeed disciplining or taming one’s mind, subduing one’s passions and desires, emotions and fears are very difficult. That is why so many scriptures, tenets and practices have been put forward since the hoary past so that we discipline ourselves. The Bhagvad Gita outlines the best system of taming the mind. So does Buddha through the eightfold path. Just like we have good governance in the conduct of the country’s affairs we need good governance of our life too.
Yoga has thus come as a boon to mankind to improve the quality of life and derive maximum happiness in living. We live because we breathe and because blood flows in our veins. We all breathe. But it is the control of our breath and the way we breathe which gives quality to our living.
Actually thousands of Gurus, sages, saints, scientists and philosophers have prescribed this medicine of life. Each Guru prescribes his formula or gives his prescription.
Sometimes people get confused – whom to follow. There are so many codes. The thing is one finds a path that most suits one’s temperament. One does not have to follow blindly. One has to be oneself. It is being oneself that procures the state of bliss that everyone runs after. There are many methods, many well-worn paths. But the most rewarding is the one you decide on and forge for yourself. The secret to this path is correct living, correct breathing, correct thinking and correct eating.
Swami Yogananda says in the “Autobiography of a Yogi”, “a true yogi may remain dutifully in the world: there he is like butter on water, and not like the unchurned, easily diluted milk of undisciplined humanity.” Or we may also use the metaphor of the lotus above muddy water.
Dr Carl Jung on Yoga
At the Indian Science Congress in 1937, where he received an honorary degree from the University of Calcutta, Dr. Carl Jung, famous Swiss psychologist said that “Yoga is a psychological discipline”. – He said : It is a method of mental hygiene. It is a physiological hygiene which is superior to ordinary gymnastics and breathing exercises, scientific but also philosophical”.
Jung further said that “Yoga is the perfect and appropriate method of fusing body and mind together so that they form a unity which is scarcely to be questioned. This unity creates a psychological disposition which makes possible intuitions that transcend consciousness.”
Therefore the yogi is not only the one who lives in the cave or in the thick forests or the mountains. Today we may live in the thick forests of concrete buildings in metropolitan or city life and be besieged by mountains of problems.
But if we learn to withdraw within ourselves, in the silence of our soul or the cave of our inner beings, then we can be perfect yogis, wherever we may be.
There is nothing mysterious about it. If we wish to enjoy the quality of our life, we should first learn to have good inner governance. Then everything else will fall into place.
* Published in print edition on 15 April 2016