Once I asked this question – People commented that the Yoga Philosophy is self-centered. It teaches people to focus on one’s own self, body, mind and soul, whereas the Bible, for example, teaches one to “Love thy Enemies”. I will always remember the response I got….. “You can only give something that you have. If you do not have peace and happiness with you, how do you expect to give the same to others?” This example of the practicality of the philosophy of Yoga, is what draws me strongly to its underlying aim – a state of unfluctuated mind. Be it peace or happiness or contentment or something much deeper than these, the process of understanding about this underlying aim has had profound impact on my life.
Through my exposure to Yoga philosophy, I have been reminded that we have to accept others for who they are – each a different individual. We cannot expect and should not attempt, to control how others think and behave. So often, we are upset and affected by others – “Why did she say that?” “He should have done this” etc. In some part, Yoga taught me to mind what I should be doing, rather than mind what others should be doing. This is the self-centeredness of Yoga.
How about our dependency on our external environment? The happiness of our loved ones affects us and we care how people think of us to a great extent. Our mind and our mood are constantly fluctuating, a large part due to the effects of external factors. Can there be peace then? Living in the “real” world within a society, it is hard to avoid the external impact on our daily lives but having been in touch with Yoga for the past few years, I have been reminded (more than ever before) to keep my fluctuating mind and mood in check. This is self-centeredness of Yoga.
In this process of self-reminder, hopefully we can find more peace, calmness and happiness in our daily lives to so that we can spread it on.
In fact, the Yoga philosophy is far from being a self-centered philosophy. The first limb of Ashtanga Yoga, the Yamas, teaches us the principles of acceptable social behaviour – Ahimsa, Satya, Asteya, Brahmacharya, Aparigraha. And to end this small chapter, let me mention another quote I heard from a Yoga philosophy talk…. “If you apply the teachings of Yoga, you will not need to ‘love thy enemy’ – because you will not make someone an enemy to begin with.” – It’s all in the mind.