Collected words from talks of Swami Tirtha

(from a lecture of Swami Tirtha, 24.06.2017 morning, Sofia)

Thank you for your kind attention! And please forgive one of my big shortcomings – that I don’t speak your language. But beware, I understand a little.

Today we have to discuss something about the tree of yoga. While the present kind of life forms exist on this planet Earth, all these parables and similarities will work for the human beings. Sometimes the most basic things are so difficult to explain. But if we cannot explain something by words and intellect, very easily we can explain it by some parallels. And as we haven’t accomplished cutting down all the trees on this planet Earth, as long as we have a concept of what is a tree, we shall have a clearer understanding of what is yoga.

Yoga is a very ancient and very great tradition. The sacred fig-tree of India is a very good example of that tree of yoga – the roots, the trunk, the major branches… This is like a natural phenomenon. Once we visited a very holy place in India and in the courtyard was this huge banyan tree – this is the sacred fig-tree. As you know, yoga has different schools; and also the classical meditation-type of yoga has different branches, different steps. We shall try to find the similarities between the different parts of the tree and the different elements of yoga.

What is the root of the yoga tree? This is yama, rules – what to avoid. For example we should avoid violence, we should avoid interfering with other people’s possessions, etc. You see, this is like the roots, the basic moral principles that we have to follow. Because without the roots there are no fruits. And if we go one step further, then we shall find the next anga of yoga, niyama – this is what we should practice. Like truthfulness and contentment – my favorite. Although we have all the reasons to complain, if we practice yoga, we have to find the reasons to be contented, to be satisfied. So these two basic things – the roots and the trunk of the tree – will give the profound foundation for our spiritual practice. Yama and niyama help us to control ourselves and also to harmonize our human relationships.

And if we go one step further: the postures, the asanas come. Although many times we think that we should start with the asanas, actually this comes a little later. On the tree of yoga the asanas are the major branches. And it is very much connected to the next phase – the pranayama, breath control. So the moral foundation is the first step and this body and breath control, the physiological functions, are the next step of yoga. In the yoga tree the parallel are the leaves which perform this exchange – the substitution of carbon dioxide for oxygen. You see, trees can do what we cannot – they can take the carbon dioxide and they can produce the oxygen; and we work the other way round.

Nevertheless, if we control the breath, then we control the mind. Usually we don’t pay enough attention to breathing properly. Although without food we can maintain our life for a month or more; without water we can survive for weeks; but without air…? Few minutes, right. So we have to pay more attention to proper breathing. This is a kind of physiological aspect of yoga, which helps us to come to the mental platform also and to control it.

And then, if you have this moral and physical control, you can withdraw your attention – pratyahara. Usually we are too much externally focused. There are so many interesting things in the world of illusion that capture our attention. Yet the wise men say that if you close your eyes, you will start to see. So, to withdraw the attention from the external objects and to find the inner treasures – this is a great change of direction in yoga. And this withdrawal is like a protection, therefore this is compared to the bark of the tree.

And if we see the next one, then concentration, dharana, comes. If you have withdrawn, captured your attention, then you can really concentrate, focus. In the yoga tree this is compared to the inner circulation. You see: the moral foundation will help us to be fixed. Then we can achieve our physiological control. And then we can start our intellectual, cognitive, spiritual journey.

But this is not the end of the ladder of yoga. Because if we have an almost full concept of a tree, then we come to a very popular platform – meditation. These days meditation is a key word. If people have some material ambitions, they will say: “I meditate on my goals.” But real meditation is to be connected to divinity, after we have controlled all the faculties of the body-mind complex. And on the tree of yoga meditation, or dhyana, is compared to the flowers. For example, if you observe an apple tree in the springtime, it is full of flowers. Thousands of flowers are there, but only a few fruits will come.

Therefore we have to go to the next step of our yoga practice, which is the ultimate level and this is the samadhi – trance state. And this is the fruit of our spiritual practices. Simply to enjoy the benefits of the flowers is beautiful, right? But the real benefit of a tree is the fruit. And please remember: without the roots there are no fruits.

(to be continued)

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