The transmission of Divine energy in the Vedic tradition is linked to a lineage or called sampradaya in Sanskrit. The term sampradya originates from the root word sam, meaning the same, equal or connection, and the word daya means compassion. Therefore a lineage is link of love, the powerful energy that pervades this planet is a connection, in the purest form to a line of sages or seers and is passed on from one generation or age to the next. In order for yoga teachings to endure and continue blossoming as they have for millenniums, they must be linked to a lineage that can disseminate the power (Shakti) of transformation in humanity. This alignment to a lineage is a sacred river of heaven that can flow through us to overcome all obstacles to our spiritual progress, abundance, love, peace and ever-new joy.
The master of our lineage is Paramahansa Yogananda (Guruji) best known
for his famous book the “Autobiography Of A Yogi” and additionally for the tremendous impact he has had on endorsing yoga as the surest means to enlightenment and balanced living. His work and life mission are ideally represented through the organization he founded known as the Self Realization Fellowship. In my formative years I learned through my Guruji’s teachings, the power that yoga has to connect us to the Divine. I was fortunate to have taken personal counsel from several of his direct disciples and mainly through Brother (Swami) Bhaktananda and several other monastics that I developed strong relationships with over the last twenty years. Gradually, year after year I learned the importance of an integral approach to yoga. I was pleased to have discovered the unique approach Guruji had for developing the body as an instrument to grow nearer to the Divine. This really fascinated me and eventually I attained manuscripts and specific material that reflected and confirmed that Yogananda did teach asana (yoga postures and gestures) although in somewhat of an obscure way, he recognized it as a powerful tool and approach for developing self-discipline (tapas) but more specifically with the intention to transcend the senses, if practiced correctly. In yoga, the capacity one has to experience “transcendence” is defined through the experience of pratyahara, the heavenly bridge that leads to freedom. Additionally Yogananda emphasized that yoga when practiced with this mystical intention has an equal therapeutic value both physically and mentally. I feel this wisdom he shared very carefully, gradually spawned much of the current trend for the concept of Yoga as “therapy”.
Meditation as the highest practice of yoga attunes the rajarishis, the subtle astral intuitive and discriminative powers that can get dulled and become unreceptive if asana is practiced alone or fragmented from meditation. This is precisely what humanity has experienced in the very recent past dark ages (Kali yuga), mans consciousness has become limited to the mundane world. Through Bhaktananda’s simple counsel and the grace of Guruji I began to experience the grand potential of yoga and the many tools in the body, breath and the mind as a complete approach to personal transformation and balanced lifestyle.
Our lineage teaches us how the body with asana and the breath through pranayama can ignite the sacred fire (kundalini) within us so the mind can then expand the prana (life-force energy) into greater awareness, compassion and love.
This is what Guruji taught but alternatively he warned of the perils of placing much attention on the body. Therefore I have learned, to practice and teach that Yoga must embrace the wisdom or Veda that comes through meditation and the lifestyle that it rests upon, like the lotus flower that opens to the sun while floating in the pond. When the sun of sadhana (practice) shines upon it, the petals of higher consciousness open but only with the support of the water or lifestyle that sustains it. I give credit to Yogananda for re-birthing the modern connection Yoga and Ayurveda share with the foundation he established that education must teach humanity “how to live.” This is the hallmark of the science of Ayurveda. In this way both yoga and ayurveda are the highest dharmas that must combine a complete practice of body, breath and mind along with lifestyle to bring us into soul awareness. Babaji, Guruji and Great Ones…I embrace your wisdom, honor your presence with all my heart and soul and thank you for the love and blessings you have bestowed unto me, and the thousands that have visited Dancing Shiva and benefitted from its programs. Jai Gurudev!
Additionally, I would like to credit a number of individuals and lineages for their support and teachings that have greatly influenced my life and work as well as the Dancing Shiva Center. David Frawley (Vamadeva Shastri) for his teachings and vision on understanding the unity of the broader Vedic tradition and for his personal support and encouragment. Dr. Subhash Ranade and Dr. Avinash Lele for their wisdom and instruction in Ayurveda in my formative years and Dr. Srikrishna Phadke for demonstrating that renegades can exist in Ayurveda. Thomas Ashley Farrand for his teachings and committment to Sanskrit mantra. Swami Jyotirmayananda of the Sivananda lineage for an explempary combination of wisdom and practicality. The Ramakrishna Order for their beauty and grace and for ushering us into the Dwapara yuga (bronze age), Swami Rama Thirtha for his true power and massive consciousness and Ramana Maharshi's simple guidance on practicing Advaita (nonduality). May we all embrace the three gems of the Vedic tradition, sadhana (practice), sangha (spiritual community) and seva (self-less service) and then we will all be doing our part to improve this world.
R. Mas Vidal