You may be familiar with the story of the elephant and the six blind men, or a similar tale. As they inspect the elephant, each of the six men gain a different understanding of what the elephant is according to what they touch. One feels a wall, another a hose, a fan, a rope, and so on. If they could merge together all of their observations into one unified picture, they might then understand what the elephant is.

In some ways, the science of yoga can be similarly elusive—many parts operating together for the all-round elevation of body, mind, and spirit. In the West, posture yoga—the physical side of the practice—has become particularly attractive for its numerous health benefits. More recently, many are taking up meditation as a means of becoming more mindfully aware, present, and peaceful. And there has always been a transcendent undercurrent that connects these different approaches and unites them into an integrated practice and way of life.

The word “yoga” is derived from the ancient Sanskrit root word “yuinj” which means to unite or unification. It represents the idea of unification between our individual self and the Universal Self, that is, self-realization.

Realizing the self is not only an internal effort. The world around us, and everything in it, is part of that same deeper essence that we strive to realize inside of us. When we are divided inside, then we also encounter a disjointed world, similar to the experience of the six blind men. We only see unrelated parts, we only see differences. When we unify ourselves inside, become whole, then we can open our eyes and see a unified reality.

That is why the science of yoga has always supported universalism, that is, the idea that all living beings are connected and fundamentally part of a universal family. We are here to share all resources of this world so that everyone—every living being—has scope to live and thrive.

Through the practices of yoga, we strive to achieve a union within ourselves. But we need to remember that this effort also entails the building of a society free of artificial divisions and fragmented perceptions. We are fundamentally part of the same universal consciousness. Only by caring for each other as our own can we find that unity within and without.

Those who wish to foster the welfare of living beings as a whole have to embrace universalism as the only alternative. If we look upon everything as our own, the question of “mine” and “yours” will dissolve; in universalism there is no opportunity for violence, hatred or narrowness.

Shrii Shrii Anandamurti

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