The word yoga means union. For there to be union, there needs to be objects becoming united. The reality of that union can only be as real, true, or factual as the objects that are being united. If something that does not really exist–in other words, an illusion–is united with something that is real, then that union is also an illusion, unreal. There is no substance to it and it is therefore without value.
Yoga means the union of the individual spirit soul, the atma, with the Supreme Spirit, the Paramatma. Neither the atma nor the Paramatma, is an illusion, unreal or without substance. Both truly exist. Because both truly exist, the union of the Supreme Soul and the spirit soul actually exists. Yoga therefore, is real. It is true. It is not false or an illusion.
Question: What is the nature of that union?
Jagad Guru: The nature or essence of that union is love. Naturally, any exchange of love requires two distinct entities. “Yoga” refers to two becoming one in love. In this condition of yoga, or oneness of these two, there remains distinction. In other words, there are still two. Lord Chaitanya has described this with the saying “achintya-bhedabheda-tattva”– “simultaneously one, yet distinct.” That is yoga.
For there to be a state of yoga, there must be simultaneous oneness yet distinction. Otherwise, it is not yoga any more; it is not union. The living entity and the Supreme Living Entity are eternal, and their union or relationship, therefore, is eternal. It is not that the living entity becomes God or loses her existence as an individual atma upon union with the Supreme Lord. That is a false idea of yoga.
Some people wish and hope for the annihilation of their own existence, and they think that yoga means that one day they will cease to exist as individuals and then be at peace. The basis of that idea, of course, is that if you don’t exist, you can’t be in pain. So whereas a heroin addict or an alcoholic will try to become unaware of or lose his individual existence in unconsciousness, another person who is equally unhappy may try to end his existence by merging into the Supreme Lord and becoming nothing or everything.
Question: What is the nature of the oneness?
Jagad Guru: The answer is love–oneness in love, and therefore oneness in will and purpose. This is the real meaning of yoga. Yoga is not different from love. In yoga, love still exists. In the false concept of yoga (the idea of there not being any individuality, where the individual atma ceases to exist), there is no love. There is no room for love because the atma is, in fact, considered an illusion. If you don’t exist, you cannot love. When a husband and wife are one in love, will, and purpose, they are simultaneously one and yet distinct. It is a relationship.
When Jesus says, “I and my Father are one,” he is describing the true yoga state–union in love and will. In this condition the individual atma has no desire to not exist or to annihilate herself because her existence is a source of bliss (ananda) rather than a source of misery. However, those who do not know or have not achieved the state of yoga cannot appreciate a condition of existence where there is no misery (although they may try with mental speculation). The only way they can imagine getting away from all misery is by ceasing to exist as individuals.
Question: Some people say that yoga refers to union of the body, mind, and spirit (or atma). Is this not correct?
Jagad Guru: Yes, this is correct, but this union is not some vague thing that a person tries to speculate about. Nor is it some passing feeling that one may get now and then while practicing one form of yoga or another. For there to be union of the body, mind, and spirit (or atma), there first needs to be union between the atma and the Paramatma. It is not possible for there to be union of the body, mind, and spirit unless and until that individual spirit’s will is dovetailed in love with the will of the Supreme Person, the Supreme Willer.
Being in the condition of union or yoga, the atma’s mind then becomes focused on the Supreme Soul. It is engaged in the service of the Supreme Soul, and is in contemplation upon the Supreme Soul. In other words, the mind becomes dovetailed with the will of the atma, whose will is dovetailed with the will of the Supreme Atma.
The gross physical body then becomes dovetailed, in purpose and will, with the mind.
In order to be happy, tranquil, and satisfied, the individual spirit soul needs to be united in love with the Supreme Person.
When the individual atma is not in loving union with the Supreme Person, then she is, in fact, without foundation, without purpose, and her purpose then becomes determined by whatever the mind puts forward. In other words, instead of the atma being the master of the mind and senses (the gross physical body), the atma becomes the servant of the body’s senses and mind. There is no union and thus no actual harmony or happiness in this condition because the individual soul can never be happy with material happiness.
So in this condition—which most people in the world today are in—you have a situation where the mind and body are leading the individual atma around. But the individual atma, the person inside the body and mind, is never happy, and therefore there is always conflict there. In other words, a person is always angry or frustrated. Furthermore, the mind and body are never satisfied in such a condition. So, for example, the genitals may demand sexual intercourse. The mind may promise the atma, “Yes, this will make us happy,” and the person then goes and engages in this activity. But then it does not make him happy, it does not satisfy him, so therefore he does it again and again. He could become a sex addict, and yet there is no satisfaction there.
As Mick Jagger says, “I can’t get no satisfaction.”
So there’s always disharmony there, and this disharmony shows up in all kinds of ways, physically and mentally. The root cause of this disharmony of the spirit is that the individual spirit soul is not in union with the Supreme Soul. Therefore, you have this conflict or disharmony between the spirit soul, her mind, and her body.
However, once the individual spirit soul is united with the Supreme Person in love and will, then the mind is no longer a cause of trouble. The individual spirit soul instead sees her mind as something that can be used in the service of her beloved Supreme Lord. She then uses her mind and intelligence, thinking, “How can I serve the Supreme Lord? What can I do with my mind? How can I use my mind to serve God and His children?” Then this puts the body into action. The spirit soul is now using the body in the service of the Supreme Soul instead of being dragged around like a slave by those who are in control of the objects that the body and the mind are attached to. So yoga also means liberation, real freedom.