Sometimes we can find new directions by bringing together the wisdom of the past with a vision for the future. The science of yoga speaks to us about becoming one with our inner selves. But this effort becomes difficult when our social lives are fragmented by divisions and conflict. In fact, there is a continual interaction between our inner and outer worlds – one mirrors the other. On the one hand, external problems reflect a troubled mind. If we are not at peace with ourselves, we cannot expect to create peace in the world. Similarly, a society that has become dysfunctional due to so much misunderstanding and intolerance disturbs the mind and makes it difficult to go within.
We need a new approach to these challenges, a dual approach. Meditative practices have often been conveyed as a path for clearing the mind, expanding our consciousness and connecting with our inner being. However, throughout history, many great teachers have also emphasized the social dimension of these teachings.
In 1893, Swami Vivekananda, the first yogi to visit the US, came to Chicago to present at the Parliament of World Religions. Vivekananada opened his first talk at the conference with the greeting, “Brothers and Sisters of America” and then went on to espouse the ideals of tolerance and a universal human family. He received a standing ovation from the delegates.
The ideas that Swami Vivekananda expressed were not novel but rather embody a longstanding vision of yoga for a united humanity. Drawing upon their meditative experiences, many great teachers, poets, and social activists have applied their expanded consciousness and love to their work of building a just and harmonious human society.
Hence, the oneness of yoga not only refers to aligning our hearts and minds, our thoughts and actions, at an individual level. It also implies breaking down the artificial walls that separate us from our fellow humans and from all living beings on this planet. We need a different type of thinking to meet the challenges facing us today. Perhaps, then, a new vision for 2023 would encourage us to tap into the wisdom within through our daily practices and transform the world around us through our universal love and connection with all beings.
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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Howard has been practicing yoga and meditation for over 45 years. Over the years, he has been sharing his knowledge and experiences of the science of yoga throughout the US and abroad. In 2006, he was a co-founder of the Prama Institute and has been one of the main faculty since then. His workshops and retreats focus on personal growth, lifestyle change, holistic health, the practice of silence, meditation, community building, and social transformation.