Swami Jyotir Maya Nanda was born on Feb, 3rd, 1931 in a pious family in Dumari Bazurg, District Saran, Bihar, a province sanctified by the great Lord Buddha and his holy associations. From his very childhood days he evinced various marks of his future saintliness. He was calm and reflective, brilliant in his work at school and college, loved by his friends and relatives. Always a sources of inspiration to all who came in contact with him, he never faltered in his high ethical ideals. Side by side with his higher studies and duties of a practical nature, he reflected upon the deeper problems of life.
The overwhelming feeling to serve humanity through spiritual life led him to embrace the ancient order of Sanyasa on Feb. 3rd, 1953 at the age of 22. Tirelessly his practised intense austerities, living in the Himalayan retreats by the sacred Ganges River. For over 9 years he was a religious professor at the Yoga Vedanta Forest Academy giving lectures on the Upanishads, Raja Yoga, and all important scriptures of India. Besides this teaching, he was the Editor of ‘Yoga Vedanta’ journal. To his Guru, Sri Swami Sivanandaji Maharaj , Swami Jyotir Maya Nanda was a gem, ever able to assist foreign student in their understanding of Yoga and Vedanta. His intuitive perception of their problems endeared him to all.
His exemplary life, great command of spiritual Knowledge, love towards all being, and his very impressive and dynamic exposition of Yoga and Vedanta Philosophy attracted enormous interest all over India, and in different countries of the world. He frequently lectured by invitation at All India Vedanta Conferences in Delhi, Amritsar, Ludhiana, and other parts of India.
After many requests, he consented to come to the U.S.A. in 1962 to spread the knowledge of India. Crossing Europe, he lectured in various countries. There is a development of an unusual dimension in his range and richness of wisdom. he never contradicts the great scriptures of the world, but adds to them by his unique explanations. In 1964, he toured North and South America, inspiring and elevating numerous students of Yoga.
‘Behind his vast erudition, lies a sincere and feeling heart, yearning for the upliftment of the seekers after truth.’ Wrote M.L. Bazaz, secretary to Late Prime Minister Nehru of India.
In Puerto Rico (from June 11, 1962 to 1969), as the founder of Sanatan Dharma Mandir, he had been rendering unique service to humanity through his regular classes, two radio lectures (one in Spanish and one in English) every week, and numerous T.V. appearances. In March of 1969, he moved his center to Miami, Florida where he has appeared on many T.V. and radio programs, and has spoken at outstanding philosophical certers. He has regular weekly classes in Raja Yoga, Yoga Vasishtha, Hatha Yoga, Mysticism of the Bible, and Meditation at his Ashram- The International Yoga Society.
Through his dynamic magazine ‘Vision of Eternity,’ his radiant guidance, his ever- effulgent literature, Swami Jyotir Maya Nanda stands forth as the glowing morning sun awakening sleeping hearts to a new dawn of bliss.
Swami Jyotir Maya Nanda occupies today a place of the highest order among the international men of wisdom, and is considered THE GENIUS OF YOGA!
People hold different views about Yoga. To some, Yoga is a religion or a sectarian belief. According to some, the adherents of Yoga, like the followers of Judaism, Christianity, or Mohammedanism, must believe in certain tenets of Yogic religion. To some, Yoga is a mere philosophy which is subject to further revolution and expansion. Some see Yoga as a mere set of physical exercises. To others, Yoga is a mystic doctrine to be given to select disciples in spiritual secrecy. Some say that Yoga can be practiced only in the caves of the Himalayas. Yoga means a life of rigid austerity and passive meditation to another type of Yogi. There are also those for whom Yoga is a magical movement that promises to set right all disorders of one’s personality in a miraculous manner. Yoga provides the key to the immense powers of the mind for others. There are, thus, numerous views upheld by the masses.
Furthermore, people hold that Yogic movement is individualistic. It aims only at the attainment of one’s release from the miseries and confinements of the world. With this concept of Yogic movement, a person asks, “Isn’t Yoga a selfish project? What does human society gain from the inward growth and inner satisfaction achieved by your Yogic disciples?”
Yoga literally means “union.” This suggests the union of the soul with the Divine Self who is the basis and support of the world- process. But from a philosophical point of view, Yoga rather implies the removal of the illusions of the mind, and the recovery of the essential fact of one’s existence. Yoga consist of the realization that the world is not a vast field of multiplicity and variations: rather, it is an illusory appearance sustained by the Truth that is Non- dual, Indivisible and Eternal. Therefore, the Self in man is the same as the Self in the whole universe. Yogic movement leads one from multiplicity to unity, from the awareness of individuality- from the encircling illusions of egoistic vision to the expansive horizons of the ego- transforming Self.
With this understanding in view, it becomes clear that Yoga is not a selfish approach intended for one’s personal gratification.
A Yogi endeavors to acquires a “healthy mind in a healthy body” in order to be equipped with a personality that can glimpse the universal expansion of the Self. This endeavor, though confined to a personal aspiration, is, in fact, an effective contribution to harmony and peace in the world. Only a healthy person with healthy thoughts can bring vitality and joy to his surroundings. It is he who can inspire strength and courage in others. Even without going into the subtle and far-reaching results of the internal advancement brought about by Yoga, it is simple to understand that any healthy development within one’s personality cannot confine itself to the limits of egoistic interests. Rather, like fragrance emanating from a flower, it must reach out to many others in a perspective that is selfless and ego-transcending.
A Yogi understands the need of Chitta Shuddhi purification of the mind- stuff (the heart). He discovers that by using the resources of his mind and body to serve humanity, he can purify his unconscious mind in an effective manner. He begins to enjoy a unique from of delight in discovering those divine sentiments of compassion, love and understanding which selflessness brings as it unfolds.
Though the goal of Yoga seems to be individualistic, yet its progress depends upon the dedication, sacrifice and effacement of the ego-sense within oneself. A movement that cannot permit the vision of the soul to be tainted by even a tinge of egoistic illusions cannot be considered selfish or individualistic in the real sense.
The human spirit is the center and the basis of all cultural, philosophical, social, political, economic, religious, and mystic movements in the world. Any movement that brings the human spirit closer to reality becomes the nourisher of all that is good and wonderful in mankind. But any movement that takes man’s spirit away from the reality of universal life creates upsurges of violence, hate, greed and disharmony.
The basic purpose of human life- the attainment of Self- realization- is the central theme of Yogic movement. In its universal approach, Yoga does not depend upon any sectarian belief, nor on some limited concepts of religion or philosophy. It does not ask a person to believe in certain dogmas, or compel a person to adopt certain rigid disciplines in life. Rather, it opens before a person the possibility of experiencing ever-widening horizons of bliss and peace through acts of understanding and enlightenment.
When a person is able to hold a clearer understanding within himself about his own inner being and the world around him, he is able to bring forth all that is good and sublime from within the depths of his soul. But when the inner horizons of the mind are overcast by the dark clouds of confusion and ignorance, his inner potentialities are unable to grow and flourish- like a garden of flowers stricken with frost.
Yoga presents many wonderful techniques of personality integration through its different aspects such as Jnana (wisdom), Bhakti (devotion), Dhyana (Raja Yogic meditation), and Karma (action). A Yogi aims at integrating his personality by harmonizing and developing the main ingredients of his personality- reason, emotion, will and action.
A practitioner of Yoga does not need to go to a Himalayan cave or turn to a life of absolute withdrawal from his social duties. Rather, he learns to view the world around him as the best field for his growth and spiritual evolution that Nature could provide. He does not see and heroism in running away from the ghosts of illusory fears. He finds it a greater act of valor to realize that the world around him is meek and flexible; so if he finds notes of discordance arising out of his circumstances and situations, they are in fact the echoes of his own inner disharmony.
One cannot advance on the path of Yoga without promoting harmony within oneself. And a process that promotes internal harmony is supremely selfless in its outer expressions inner harmony, then he develops the capacity of endurance during adverse conditions, the art of patience towards the faltering steps of others and the virtue of understanding that enables him to adapt to all conditions and circumstances of life. With the growing vision of internal harmony, the hurdles on one’s path begin to dissolve like ice melting in the tropical summer, and the burdens of life become light and joyous. There is no longer the need to constantly sigh and cry against uncomfortable developments. Rather, there is a joyous acceptance of all that life unfolds on the basis of its inherent universal vision.
The idea that Yogis cannot be cannot be practical because of their philosophy concerning the illusory nature of the world- process- that idea is erroneous. A Yogi does not just adopt “the illusion of the world” as one would a sectarian belief. Rather, he allows his serene reason to shift from the outer husk of appearances to reveal the indwelling reality of the Self.
In the absence of a clear reasoning faculty, a person takes everything for granted, and just accepts his sense- perceptions. But with the development of a penetrating insight, he realizes that there is illusion in the physical universe. This is supported by the most advanced studies in science.
Further, he discovers illusions in his mental moods, sentiments, concepts and beliefs. He realizes that human relationships are superficial, and all achievements in life are perishable. The very time- space continuum which constitutes this world, is a mental projection.
Time is an illusion. Space is relative to the body that one is identified with. And even the mental process itself is a phenomenon of relativity sustained by the illusion of one’s ego- sense. He gains a deep insight into that state of Cosmic Awareness wherein the very ego is transcended along with the relativity of the mental process. This is the state of Samadhi which reveals to the Yogi the ego- transcending horizons of Divine Unity.
The process of negation is not sustained by a pathetic mood, but by the growing purity of one’s reason. Therefore, instead of becoming inactive, a Yogi becomes dynamic. He is no longer pressured by the illustrations of expectations, frustrations, egoistic hankerings, and mental tensions caused by baseless fears and anxieties. Therefore, in the atmosphere of growing inner peace and harmony, he begins to unfold all that is sublime and divine in his personality.
A Yogi begins to spread the knowledge of Yoga by his very life. He may be a doctor, a lawyer, a businessman, a politician, or a simple farmer. It is not the outer mode of expression, but the inner state of consciousness and understanding which makes one a Yogi. Let people live more and more in the spirit of Yoga, and there will be the growth of all that is true, beautiful and good in mankind.
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