The purpose of yoga is to recognize this reality, or my true nature. The ‘I’, the person, is by nature immortal, all knowledge or consciousness and all happiness or fullness. All the wholeness or completeness and happiness is within me, the consciousness is within me, and the immortality is within me. When we understand this, we have to live a life in a manner that this truth about ourselves becomes a reality for us. Therefore, yoga teaches us a way of life by which this truth can progressively become a reality. Yoga is defined in the scriptures as being that state in which we become completely free from all the disturbing thoughts and there is abidance in our own nature. The entire science and practice of yoga is prescribed to bring this about.
The fact is that I already am what I am trying to become. I am seeking something in life outside of myself, while in fact, what I am seeking is the ‘I’, my own self. We tell the famous story of The Ten Boys to illustrate this. Once upon a time, ten young boys from a village decided to go on a picnic. They went to their parents to seek permission. Their parents told them, “There are ten of you. Make sure that all of you return safely.” Of the ten boys, one was taller and heftier than the rest. He was appointed leader and assigned the responsibility of making sure that all of them arrived back safely. The boys set off and after a while they came across a river. All the boys knew swimming and therefore plunged into the river, swam across and reached the other bank. The leader said, “Let me verify if all of us have reached safely”. He asked his friends to line up so that he could count everybody. He began to count, “One, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight, and nine. We were ten when we left, but now we are only nine!” He counted again, from the other end of the line. “One, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight, nine. What happened to the tenth boy?” He counted several times, and every time the count went up to nine only. He invited one of his friends to count. But his friend had studied in the same school! His count also was nine! One by one each of them came forward and counted. And each of them came to the same conclusion that there were only nine of them and not ten! They concluded that the tenth boy was lost and became very worried. They divided themselves into different search parties. One search party went into the water to see if the lost boy had drowned. The other search party started searching on the banks of the river. The interesting thing is that nobody had a description of the tenth boy and neither did they even think about it. All they thought was that they had to search for missing the tenth boy. They searched for the tenth boy for the rest of the day, but could not find him. In the evening all of them gathered again, disappointed. Not knowing what to do, they began to cry. At that time, an old man happened to pass by. He asked what the matter was, and the leader got up and recounted the whole story of how they had lost the tenth boy. “How did you determine that one of you is lost?” “I counted them”. “Show me how you counted them.” “Ok. Let me show you.” He asked his friends to line up and he counted. “One, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight, nine.” The old gentleman realized what the matter was. He said, “Do not worry my children. The tenth boy is here.” “Oh really, please tell us where he is!” The boys thought that the man may have seen this tenth boy somewhere. “Where is he?” “Do as I tell you.” He asked them to line up to be counted. “Now again count carefully,” he said. The leader again started counting hopefully. “One, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight, nine.” Puzzled, he looked at the old man and asked, “Where is the tenth boy?” The old man said, “You are the tenth boy”. “What?” Then he understood, “Hey! I am the tenth boy.”
When I tell children this story I ask them how many ‘tenth boys’ there are. “One.” “Which one?” “The one who counts.” But each one counts by turn. And each one of them is, in turn, the tenth boy. So in the story, when each boy counted and searched for the tenth boy, he was really searching for himself. Isn’t it amazing that they were searching for themselves? When can this happen? When it is concluded that the tenth boy is lost, when he does not know who he is and when he takes it for granted that he is not the tenth boy because his mind is distracted away from himself. So to find the tenth boy what should he do? He should turn his mind away from looking outside and look at himself. This is what we do not have an opportunity to do. We always look outside of ourselves to solve every problem. When I am sad or unhappy, I look for and find the cause there, outside.
“Why are you sad this morning?” “My parents are not listening to me. Therefore, I am sad.”
“Why are you sad?” “I received a letter from my parents this morning!” “Why are you sad?” “I do not have a job”.
“Why are you sad?” “I have a job”.
“Why are you sad?” “I am not married”.
“Why are you sad?” “I am married”.
“Why are you sad?” “I do not have children”. “Why are you sad?” “I have children”.
Thus, we invariably look outside of ourselves and are quite convinced that the cause of our sadness or unhappiness lies somewhere out there. Therefore, when we want to be happy, because we have concluded that happiness also lies outside of ourselves, we look for an external source. We look for wealth, name, fame, prosperity etc. for happiness. We need someone else or something else to make us happy. Our conclusion is that we are unhappy and therefore each one of us is counting for this elusive tenth man.
It has to be just the right kind of job, the right kind of house, the right kind of furniture, carpet, air-conditioning, heating, car and garage, and I am still counting! I feel that I still lack something. Everything is just as it should be and yet, the sense of something lacking does not seem to go away. I never look at myself! But this is what yoga wants us to do. We have just to look at ourselves. When can we look at ourselves? When we become free of our pre-occupation with looking outside all the time. This becoming free from our pre-occupation is a process, and yoga teaches us how to slowly achieve that. It does not mean that we become free from work or free from life. It is just our becoming free from searching elsewhere. It is one thing to lead our lives from day to day, but quite another thing to make life a process of seeking happiness and security. Right now our life has become a process of acquiring happiness and security and yoga teaches that acquiring happiness and security need not be the sole purpose of life.
When can I enjoy my life? When I do not make life a process of seeking happiness or seeking security. I erroneously conclude that I am unhappy and that my happiness has its source outside and therefore every action I perform is a means of acquiring this happiness. That is how my mind is pre-occupied with things other than myself. Yoga says that rather than that, make your life a process of giving happiness and giving security. Right now I want the world to love me. Yoga says, make your actions a means of giving love instead. Love is something to be given, not acquired. Can we find an object called love? Is there a person called love? Is there a situation called love or happiness? Love is not something that can be acquired.
The goal is to slowly become free from our constant pre-occupation with things other than ourselves, and gradually turn our mind towards ourselves, so that we may recognize what we truly are. For this, the mind should be free from the constant searching for something on the outside all the time. If I am driving at 80 miles an hour and all of a sudden realize that I am going in the wrong direction, what should I do? I cannot turn around immediately. I must first apply the brake and slow down. Only then can I slowly make a turn. Similarly, let our lives become a process of slowly becoming centered upon ourselves rather than being centered upon something external. I don’t mean becoming self-centered in the narrow sense. Let us become other-centered with reference to our activity so that our minds become centered upon ourselves.
Our lives have to transform and that transformation is what yoga teaches us. May life become a process, not of acquiring what we do not have, but a process of offering what we have. You will be surprised at all that you have that can be offered. Only when we start giving do we discover what we have. So yoga is teaching us how to make life a process of offering. That is the first step. This will then lead us to discover who we truly are and discover what we are truly searching for.