Thursday, March 17, 2016

Is there any relationship between yoga and love?

Question: Is there any relationship between yoga and love?

Certainly; there is a deep relationship.

Yoga, with its extraordinary health benefits, has achieved global acclaim today. The word 'yoga' comes from the root 'yug', which is similar to the English word 'yoke' and means to 'connect' or 'link'. The Patanjali Yoga-Sutra, which is the foundational guidebook for yoga, explains that yoga in its completeness comprises eight stages and so is called ashtanga-yoga (ashta - eight, anga - limbs). What is popular as yoga today is actually just one of the eight stages named asana. The Yoga-Sutra also states that the final stage of yoga is called samadhi: loving, trancelike absorption on the Lord in the heart.

The ancient Vedic wisdom-tradition that gave us the Yoga-Sutra reminds us that yoga can offer gifts far greater than healing the body or even calming the mind. In its most evolved form, yoga can fulfill our innermost need: love.

More than treasures and pleasures, positions and possessions, our deepest longing is for love; all of us want to love and to be loved. Nowadays, love is often reduced to the bodily interaction between people. But real love is a connection beyond bodies, beyond minds, beyond even the souls. True love enables us to connect with others at an eternal dimension by centering our relationship on the origin of all love: the all-attractive, all-loving Lord.

This art of centering and connecting our love is called bhakti. It is the universal wisdom that underlies and unifies all the great wisdom-traditions of the world. Bhakti empowers us to tune our consciousness so that we can receive love from the Lord who is at the heart of the creation and then radiate that love to all whom we contact, thus enriching many, many love-starved hearts with warmth and joy. No wonder then that bhakti is called the yoga of love.

As bhakti take us most efficaciously to samadhi, the ultimate stage of yoga, Lord Krishna in the Bhagavad-gita (6.47) states explicitly that bhakti-yoga is the topmost all yogas: "Of all yogis, the one with great faith who always abides in me, thinks of me within himself, and renders transcendental loving service to me is the most intimately united with me in yoga and is the highest of all. "

The Lord is so eager to satisfy our hunger for love that he makes himself fully available to us as his holy names - especially the chant of love, the Hare Krishna mahamantra. When we devotionally chant the holy names, we are simultaneously linking with God (yoga), and are also expressing our love for God and exeriencing his love for us. Thus, by linking the love-seeking soul with the love-radiating Supersoul, chanting constitutes the pinnacle of the yoga of love.