It’s widely and correctly known that the word yoga means union or harmony, but one of the great misunderstandings of yoga teaching, is that this harmony has its ultimate expression in the harmony of your body, mind and spirit.
The relationship between the body and the soul is oftentimes explained in yoga teachings as being like the situation with a car and the driver of the car. You (the spirit/soul) are the driver, and the car you are driving is your physical body ~ and if we even briefly analyse the nature of this situation, it is not difficult to appreciate why the idea of body, mind spirit harmony is incorrect.
As the cliché goes, and as all yoga teachings confirm ~ ‘the soul is forever young’. We (spirits/souls) are eternal, and yet we are in a temporary physical body. Understanding that to be the case, where then can there be any valid hope for lasting harmony between the driver and the car?
Inevitably the brakes wear out, the paint peels, the engine splutters etc, etc… In other words, our physical body ages, gets diseased and eventually suffers the ultimate disharmony ~ death. And while all this is going on, the driver (the soul who does not age) goes to the mechanic (doctor) to try to keep their car/body going. They want to keep their body ~ they want to have more sex with it, more food, more enjoyments of one kind or another ~ and yet year after year, slowly but surely, it just can’t perform like it used to, no matter how much asana practice we have done, no matter how good our diet, no matter how many doctors and therapists we go to. This means of course, that the mind is having a hard time ~ continually having to adjust to the gradual demise of the body.
For those who are wanting to persist with the attempt to harmonise their body, mind and spirit, then certainly all this talk about the temporary nature of the body and the frustrated mind will appear to be very bleak and negative, but it nevertheless remains the reality, and no amount of glossy positive thinking will ever change that.
Genuine yoga teachings therefore advise that we square up to that bleak reality with a cool head, and in preference to the frustrating struggle of constantly trying to put a positive spin on it, we learn to see past the bleakness and move on to the real understanding of yoga/union/harmony ~ an understanding that does not require artificial support.
If yoga is not the union of body, mind and spirit, then what is it? It is the union of the individual spirit/soul (you, me, all of us…) with the Supreme Soul, the source of all material and spiritual energies. A nice analogy that has been given since ancient times is that of the sun and the rays of the sun. When a ray of the sun realises that it has not created itself, and that it owes its existence to a source, an original cause (the sun itself), then that is real yoga/harmony/union. Not only that, but this real harmony is natural and eternal and to whatever degree we realise it, we become satisfied accordingly. If we reject it however, we will never be satisfied, because we are rejecting the truth about who we really are.
‘The living entities in this conditioned world are My eternal fragmental parts. Due to conditioned life, they are struggling very hard with the six senses, which include the mind.’ Bhagavad Gita 15:7
Although we have now gone far beyond the incorrect idea of yoga as being harmony of body, mind and spirit, we have still not yet touched on the actual nature of the union between the sun and its rays. We can get the clue if we examine the characteristics of our own individual nature. The soul, a ray of the sun (the real you) is conscious and aware. We also have desire and will.
That being the case, it should not be too difficult to accept that these same characteristics are also found in the sun (although in a far greater quantity), and understanding that our core desire is to love and be loved, we should now be able to more easily appreciate what the nature of the union is. The nature of the union is a loving relationship between the soul and the Supreme Soul. It is described in the Bhagavad Gita:
‘And of all yogis, he who always abides in Me with great faith, worshipping me in transcendental loving service, is most intimately united with Me in yoga, and is the highest of all.’ Bhagavad Gita 6:47
Although the nature of this spiritual relationship/union/harmony is nowhere explained as fully as it is in yoga teachings, this same understanding can also be found in the teachings of Jesus. When Jesus was asked about the ultimate spiritual teaching, he replied that it was to ‘Love the Lord with all your heart, all your mind, and all your being. This is the foremost of all teachings.’ Matthew 22:37
This is the real meaning and the truth about yoga. It is the eternal harmony and loving union between the individual souls (rays of the sun, the children) and the Supreme Soul (the sun itself, the Father). Just like children naturally love and need to be loved by their parents, we all naturally need to love and be loved by the all attractive Supreme Soul, the original source of all children.
Naturally flowing on from this love for the Supreme is love for others. (As we gradually realise our loving relationship with the sun, we simultaneously realise our eternal loving relationship with all the rays of the sun.) This was also described by Jesus: ‘The second most important teaching is like the first ~ to love your neighbour as much as you love yourself.’ Matthew 22:39
Anything less than this expansive spiritual love will never truly satisfy the deep and natural needs of the soul. And yes, if the actions of the body and the movements of our mind are performed in the context of this union between the soul and the Supreme soul, then they too are a part of that union/harmony. And so the idea of body, mind and spirit harmony is correct, but only in the larger context of the soul’s relationship with the Supreme Soul. Separated from that greater context, there can be no real or lasting harmony of the body, mind and spirit.