It would be an understatement to say there are many misconceptions and misunderstandings that exist with regard to the purpose and meaning of Yoga.
The word “Yoga” (or “Yog”) comes from the Sanskrit root “Yuj“, meaning “Join”. Thus, in nutshell, Yoga simply means the joining of the ego-self (Haumai or the sense of “I, me, mine, you”, etc.) to the Higher Self within — to join one’s Jot Saroop or True Nature, to recognize one’s true Self (“ਆਪਣਾ ਮੂਲੁ ਪਛਾਣੁ”)…
In other words, Yoga means uniting of the time-bound consciousness with the Timeless Consciousness within (Mool: Jot Saroop, Tru Nature…) — experience or realization of Unity, Rabb or Universal Energy; existing as an Indivisible Whole (Saabat Soorat), complete merger with Totality or Hukam, and so on.
The Yogi and Yoga of the Gurbani
The Gurbani asserts that a Gurmukh obtains Yoga through practicing Shabad-Vichaar or churning the Gurbani — obtaining the Wisdom or Giaan of the Sri Guru Granth Sahib (SGGS), and then living it in daily life.
- ਗੁਰਮੁਖਿ ਜੋਗੁ ਕਮਾਵੈ ਅਉਧੂ ਜਤੁ ਸਤੁ ਸਬਦਿ ਵੀਚਾਰੀ ॥੨੦॥: O hermit! By becoming the Gurmukh, (one) practices Yoga; to contwmplate or reflect on the Shabad (Gur-Giaan or Wisdom) is his abstinence and truth ||20|| (sggs 908).
- ਗੁਰਮੁਖਿ ਜੋਗੀ ਜੁਗਤਿ ਪਛਾਣੈ ॥: A person who has become the Gurmukh is the (true) Yogi, that person realizes the Way (of real Yoga).
Prerequisite necessary for the Gurmukh Lifestyle is indicated to develop detachment (Bairaag), Bhagti, self-control, Naam (Wisdom, Virtues, Bibek, Truth…), and so on, while living in the midst of happenings of the world or Maya.
Thus, its the skill in thoughts, words and action (Karma) that leads to the state of Perfection (Pooran) which is full of Bliss (Anand) and totally free from the experience of repeated suffering (sorrow or Dukha).
One may ask, “how is it possible to live in the midst of the world without desires?”. For this it is essential to understand why one gets desires in the first place. Desires arise in the mind due to Bikaar: lust, anger, greed, attachments, pride, possessiveness, jealousy, selfishness, etc.
The mind can find contentment, fulfillment or satisfaction only in itself. When the limitations imposed by the body-mind-intellect personality are overcome, the mind becomes one with its Jot Saroop. The SGGS indicates that the worldly desires disappear when dispassion (Bairaag) grows.
Clearly, it’s an uphill climb to be a true Yogi of the Gurmat. The Gurbani tells us exactly who the true Yogi is. The Gurbani indicates that whosoever knows the “ਜੁਗਤਿ” (Way of life, etc.) to live properly is a true Yogi.
- ਸੋ ਜੋਗੀ ਜੋ ਜੁਗਤਿ ਪਛਾਣੈ ॥ ਗੁਰ ਪਰਸਾਦੀ ਏਕੋ ਜਾਣੈ ॥: He alone is a Yogi, who understands the Way (to live life properly). By the Gur-Grace (i.e., by the Grace of the Gur-Giaan or Knowledge), he Realizes the One (Universal Energy). (sggs 662).
- ਸੋ ਜੋਗੀ ਜੁਗਤਿ ਸੋ ਪਾਏ ਜਿਸ ਨੋ ਗੁਰਮੁਖਿ ਨਾਮੁ ਪਰਾਪਤਿ ਹੋਇ ॥ ਤਿਸੁ ਜੋਗੀ ਕੀ ਨਗਰੀ ਸਭੁ ਕੋ ਵਸੈ ਭੇਖੀ ਜੋਗੁ ਨ ਹੋਇ ॥ ਨਾਨਕ ਐਸਾ ਵਿਰਲਾ ਕੋ ਜੋਗੀ ਜਿਸੁ ਘਟਿ ਪਰਗਟੁ ਹੋਇ ॥੨॥: He alone is a Yogi, and he alone finds the Way, who, as Gurmukh, obtains the Naam. In the body-village of that Yogi are all (Virtues); this Yoga is not obtained by outward show (of religion). O Nanak! such a Yogi is very rare; within whom Awakens (Naam: Wisdom, Virtues, Truth…). (sggs 556).
In nutshell, the Gurbani asserts that a true Yogi is the one who lives his daily life piously per the “Satiguru” (True Wisdom, Bibek, ਸੱਚਾ ਗਿਆਨ), or who lives by the Naam, Hukam or Virtues (ਗੁਣ) — Truth (ਸਤ), honesty (ਇਮਾਨਦਾਰੀ), contentment (ਸੰਤੋਖ), mercy (ਦਯਾ), patience (ਧੀਰਜ), Sahaj (ਸਹਜ-Natural State of Being), Wisdom (ਗਿਆਨ), humility (ਮਨ ਨਿਮਾਣਾ, ਬੁਧਿ ਗਰੀਬੀ), sweet speech (ਮਿਠ ਬੋਲੜਾ)…
- ਸਤਿਗੁਰੁ ਸੇਵੇ ਸੋ ਜੋਗੀ ਹੋਇ ॥: Yogi is that person who serves the Satiguru (True Wisdom, Bibek, ਸੱਚਾ ਗਿਆਨ). (sggs 223).
- ਨਾਨਕ ਬਿਨੁ ਨਾਵੈ ਜੋਗੁ ਕਦੇ ਨ ਹੋਵੈ ਦੇਖਹੁ ਰਿਦੈ ਬੀਚਾਰੇ ॥੬੮॥: O Nanak! without the Naam (Wisdom, Virtues, Truth…), Yoga is never obtained, Reflect on this in your mind and see for yourself. (sggs 946).
- ਗੁਰਮੁਖਿ ਜੋਗ ਸਬਦਿ ਆਤਮੁ ਚੀਨੈ ਹਿਰਦੈ ਏਕੁ ਮੁਰਾਰੀ ॥੧੭॥: A person who has become the Gurmukh, recognizes his soul (mind) by joining the Shabad (Wisdom, Giaan, Bibek), and enshrines within his heart the One Rabb (Universal Energy, Hukam or Sytem-Rule-Law of Nature…). ||17|| (sggs 908).
What is not Yoga?
Now, once we know through the Gurbani what is called true Yoga and Yogi, it becomes rather easy to digest as to what is NOT Yoga and Yogi!
- ਜੋਗੁ ਨ ਭਗਵੀ ਕਪੜੀ ਜੋਗੁ ਨ ਮੈਲੇ ਵੇਸਿ ॥: Yoga is not obtained by wearing saffron or dirty robes (sggs 1421).
- ਜੋਗੀ ਜੁਗਤਿ ਗਵਾਈ ਹੰਢੈ ਪਾਖੰਡਿ ਜੋਗੁ ਨ ਪਾਈ ॥: (O Pakhandee or hypocrit) Yogi, you have lost the Way; you wander around confused. Through hypocrisy, Yoga is not attained (sggs 909).
- ਹਠਿ ਨਿਗ੍ਰਹਿ ਨ ਤ੍ਰਿਪਤਾਵਹਿ ਭੇਵਾ ॥: None can satisfy (his mind) through the stubborn (rituals etc.) (sggs 906).
- ਏਹੁ ਜੋਗੁ ਨ ਹੋਵੈ ਜੋਗੀ ਜਿ ਕੁਟੰਬੁ ਛੋਡਿ ਪਰਭਵਣੁ ਕਰਹਿ ॥: This is not Yoga, O Yogi, to abandon your family and wander around (sggs 909).
- ਜੋਗੁ ਨ ਖਿੰਥਾ ਜੋਗੁ ਨ ਡੰਡੈ ਜੋਗੁ ਨ ਭਸਮ ਚੜਾਈਐ ॥ ਜੋਗੁ ਨ ਮੁੰਦੀ ਮੂੰਡਿ ਮੁਡਾਇਐ ਜੋਗੁ ਨ ਸਿੰਙੀ ਵਾਈਐ ॥ ਅੰਜਨ ਮਾਹਿ ਨਿਰੰਜਨਿ ਰਹੀਐ ਜੋਗ ਜੁਗਤਿ ਇਵ ਪਾਈਐ ॥੧॥ ਗਲੀ ਜੋਗੁ ਨ ਹੋਈ ॥ ਏਕ ਦ੍ਰਿਸਟਿ ਕਰਿ ਸਮਸਰਿ ਜਾਣੈ ਜੋਗੀ ਕਹੀਐ ਸੋਈ ॥੧॥ ਰਹਾਉ ॥ ਜੋਗੁ ਨ ਬਾਹਰਿ ਮੜੀ ਮਸਾਣੀ ਜੋਗੁ ਨ ਤਾੜੀ ਲਾਈਐ ॥ ਜੋਗੁ ਨ ਦੇਸਿ ਦਿਸੰਤਰਿ ਭਵਿਐ ਜੋਗੁ ਨ ਤੀਰਥਿ ਨਾਈਐ ॥: Union (with the Divine Self within) is not realized by putting on a patched coat; nor by (walking with) the staff (in hand); nor by smearing the body with ashes; nor by wearing the ear-rings, nor by the shaven head, nor by blowing of the horn. The Way to realize Union is by remaining unblemished in the midst of the worldly filth (Maya). ||1|| Union (with the True Self within) is not realized by mere talks or words. One who looks upon all with a single eye (even vision), and knows them to be one and the same — he alone is known as a Yogi. ||1|| Pause|| Union (with the True Self within) is not realized by wandering to the tombs of the dead; nor by sitting in trances; nor by wandering through native and foreign lands or bathing at places of pilgrimage. (sggs 730).
In nutshell, anything or any activity that keeps one away from the uninterrupted Gurmukh Lifestyle is disapproved by the SGGS. In other words, if one’s spiritual efforts turn into a mere show of empty rituals or Pakhand (hypocrisy), and makes one freeloader (ਵੇਲੜ, ਮੰਗ ਖਾਣੇ, “ਮਖਟੂ”- lazy bums…) is disapproved by the SGGS.
Particularly In the West as well as in India, the majority associate Yoga with gymnastic like feats, indulging in sex and intoxication (Smoking Sulphaa, Gaanjaa, and so on), mere physical postures (Aasan), mental and breathing exercises, showing women in seemingly impossible poses on covers of magazines, and so on.
Even though regular exercises are important for maintaining a healthy body, however, they are not equal to Realization. Hence, we need to regard them only for what they are worth, no more and no less.
We are also told by the SGGS that Yoga cannot be attained through mere talking about it; reading books about it; debating about it; scholarships; etc.
- ਕਹਤ ਸੁਨਤ ਕਛੁ ਜੋਗੁ ਨ ਹੋਊ ॥: By just hearing and telling stories, no one attains Yoga, or Union with God (sggs 251).
Thus, the Gurbani repudiates any and all sorts of Pakhandbaajee associated with Yoga practices.
Baabaa Nanak’s discourse on Yogi lifestyle
There is Baabaa Nanak’s Bani called “Sidh Gosati” on page 938 of the SGGS.
There are a total of 73 stanzas or Pourhee in this entire “Sidh Gosati”.
However, there is ONLY one Rahaaou (ਰਹਾਉ) in the entire “Sidh Gosati”!
But, this one Rahaaou (ਰਹਾਉ) gives us a principle, the central point of the entire “Sidh Gosati” Bani:
- ਕਿਆ ਭਵੀਐ ਸਚਿ ਸੂਚਾ ਹੋਇ ॥ ਸਾਚ ਸਬਦ ਬਿਨੁ ਮੁਕਤਿ ਨ ਕੋਇ ॥੧॥ ਰਹਾਉ ॥: (Baabaa Nanak tells Yogis) what is the use of wandering around (at places of pilgrimage, mountains, jungles, in peculiar external appearances, etc.)? Purity comes only through Truth. Without the True Wisdom (ਸੱਚਾ ਗਿਆਨ, Upadesh), no one finds liberation ||1||Pause|| (sggs 938).