What is Yoga?


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It’s not about sticking your foot behind your ears. It’s about what’s between your ears.

What is Yoga“Yoga has been defined in many ways; there are many definitions. Some say Yoga is the meeting of the mind with the divine, hence it is called Yoga – Yoga means meeting, joining together. Some say that Yoga means dropping the ego, ego is the barrier: the moment you drop the ego you are joined to the divine. You were already joined; it only appeared that you were not joined because of the ego. There are many definitions, but Patanjali’s definition is the most scientific. He says: Yoga is the cessation of mind.

“Yoga is the state of no-mind. The word mind covers everything – your egos, your desires, your hopes, your philosophies, your religions, your scriptures. Mind covers all. Whatsoever you can think, is mind. All that is known, all that can be known, all that is knowable, is within mind. Cessation of the mind means cessation of the known, cessation of the knowable. It is a jump into the unknown. When there is no mind, you are in the unknown. Yoga is a jump into the unknown. It will not be right to say ‘unknown,’ rather, ‘unknowable.’

“What is the mind? What is the mind doing there? What is it? Ordinarily we think that the mind is something substantial there, inside the head. Patanjali doesn’t agree – and no one who has ever known the insides of the mind will agree. Modern science also doesn’t agree. Mind is not something substantial inside the head. Mind is just a function, just an activity.

“You walk, and I say you are walking. What is walking? If you stop, where is walking? If you sit down, where has the walking gone? Walking is nothing substantial; it is an activity. So while you are sitting, no one can ask, ‘Where have you put your walking? Just now you were walking, so where has the walking gone?’ You will laugh. You will say, ‘Walking is not something substantial, it is just an activity. I can walk. I can again walk and I can stop. It is activity.’

“Mind is also activity, but because of the word mind it appears as if something substantial is there. It is better to call it ‘minding’ – just like walking. Mind means ‘minding,’ minds means thinking. It is an activity….

“The very looking is anti-mind, because a look is not a thinking. And if you look intensely your whole energy becomes a look, and the same energy becomes movement and thinking.

Yoga is the cessation of mind. This is Patanjali’s definition: when there is no mind, you are in Yoga, when there is mind you are not in Yoga. So you may do all the postures but if the mind goes on functioning, if you go on thinking, you are not in Yoga.

“Yoga is the state of no-mind. If you can be without the mind without doing any posture, you have become a perfect yogi. It has happened to many without doing any postures, and it has not happened to many who have been doing postures for many lives. Because the basic thing to be understood is: when the activity of thinking is not there, you are there. When the activity of the mind is not there, when thoughts have disappeared – they are just like clouds – when they have disappeared your being, just like the sky, is uncovered. It is always there – only covered with clouds, covered with thoughts.

Yoga is the cessation of mind. Now in the West there is much appeal for Zen, which is a Japanese method of Yoga. The word Zen comes from dhyana. Bodhidharma introduced this word dhyana into China. The word dhyana became jhan, and then in China ch’an, and then the word traveled to Japan and became Zen.

“The root is dhyana. Dhyana means no-mind, so the whole training of Zen in Japan is nothing but how to stop ‘minding,’ how to be a no-mind, how to be without thinking? Try it! When I say try it, it will look contradictory, but there is no other way to say it, because if you try, the very effort is coming from the mind. You can sit in a posture and you can try some japa, chanting a mantra, or you can just try to sit silently, try not to think. But then ‘not to think’ becomes the thinking. But then you go on saying, ‘I am not to think; don’t think; stop thinking,’ but this is all thinking.

“Try to understand. When Patanjali says no-mind …cessation of mind, he means complete cessation. He will not allow you to make a mantra, ‘Ram-Ram-Ram.’ He will say that this is not cessation, you are using the mind. He will say, ‘Simply stop!’ But you will ask, ‘How? How can you simply stop?’ The mind continues. Even if you sit, the mind continues. Even if you don’t do, it goes on doing.

“Patanjali says ‘Then just look. Let the mind go, let the mind do whatsoever it is doing. You just look. You don’t interfere. You just be a witness, you just be an onlooker, as if the mind doesn’t belong to you, as if it is not your business, not your concern. Don’t be concerned; just look and let the mind flow. It is flowing because of past momentum, because you have always helped it to flow. The activity has taken its own momentum, so it is flowing. Just don’t cooperate. Look, and let the mind flow.’

“For many, many lives, a million lives maybe, you have cooperated with it, you have helped it, you have given your energy to it. The river will flow for a while. If you don’t cooperate, if you just look, unconcerned – Buddha’s word is indifference, upeksha: looking without any concern, just looking, not doing anything in any way – the mind will flow for a while and it will stop by itself. When the momentum is lost, when the energy has flowed away, the mind will stop. When the mind stops, you are in Yoga: you have attained the discipline. This is the definition:

Yoga is the cessation of mind.
Then the witness is established in itself.

“When the mind ceases, …the witness is established in itself.

“When you can simply look without being identified with the mind, without judging, without appreciating, condemning, without choosing; you simply look and the mind flows, a time comes when by itself, of itself, the mind stops.

“When there is no mind you are established in your witnessing. Then you have become a witness, just a seer, a drashta, a sakshi. Then you are not a doer, you are not a thinker. Then you are simply pure being, purest of being. Then the witness is established in itself.

In the other states there is identification
with the modifications of the mind.

“Except witnessing, in all states you are identified with the mind. You become one with the flow of thoughts, you become one with the clouds: sometimes with the white cloud, sometimes with the black cloud, sometimes with a rain-filled cloud, sometimes with a vacant, empty cloud. But when you become one with the thought, you become one with the cloud and you miss the purity of the sky, the purity of the space. You become clouded and this clouding happens because you get identified, you become one.

“A thought comes. You are hungry and the thought flashes in the mind. The thought is simply that there is hunger, the stomach is feeling hunger. Immediately you get identified; you say, ‘I am hungry.’ The mind was just filled with a thought that hunger is there, and you have become identified and you say, ‘I am hungry.’ This is identification.

“Buddha also feels hunger, Patanjali also feels hunger, but Patanjali will never say, ‘I am hungry’: he will say, ‘The body is hungry’; he will say, ‘My stomach is feeling hungry’; he will say, ‘There is hunger. I am a witness. I have come to witness this thought which has been flashed by the belly into the brain: “I am hungry.”’ The belly is hungry, Patanjali will remain a witness. You become identified, you become one with the thought. Then the witness is established in itself. In the other states there is identification with the modifications of the mind.

“This is the definition: Yoga is the cessation of mind.

“When the mind ceases, you are established in your witnessing self. In other states except this, there are identifications. In other states except this there are identifications. And all identifications constitute the sansar; they are the world. And if you are in identifications you are in the world, in misery. If you have transcended identifications you are liberated. You have become a siddha, you are in nirvana. You have transcended the world of misery and entered the world of bliss.

“And that world is here, right now! – right now, this very moment! You need not wait even for it a single moment. Just become a witness of the mind, and you have entered. Get identified with the mind and you have missed. This is the basic definition.

“Remember everything, because later on, in other sutras, we will go into details about what is to be done, how it is to be done.

“But always keep in mind that this is the foundation: One has to achieve a state of no-mind. That is the goal.”

Excerpted from Osho, The Path of Yoga, Talk #1