Inner Engineering: A yogi’s guide to joy
Penguin Random House
300 pages; Average reading time 4 hours 04 min
This bookbhook summary will take not more than 12 minutes
This book summary of Inner Engineering has been handcrafted by Deepti Sasikumar. Deepti is a stay at home mother and finds solace in reading as it provides an escape to different places and into the minds and lives of great personalities.
Restaurants & temples
People have mistaken spirituality as a destination. We need to simply look without the motive to enhance our perception. I was a born sceptic. I wondered why people were happier coming out of restaurants than temples. I questioned everything without the need to conclude anything. We human beings always yearn for more. If we are released from a five by five feet cubicle, and are put in a ten by ten feet cubicle, we still want to break free to a bigger space. The moment you become conscious of the boundary, you want to break it.
In pursuit of real joy
Everyone is in the pursuit of a single thing- joy. The means maybe through job, career, business, family, or love. Our wellbeing is of utmost importance. This is a deep sense of pleasantness and permeates through different spheres of our life. ‘Your success in the world depends on how well you harness the prowess of body and mind’. If you can remain blissful for 24 hours, your intellectual capabilities double.
However, the simple life process has taken a toll on humanity. To work, to raise a family, to reproduce, to die – everything is a challenge. Why do we struggle with things that are meant to be effortless? Our inner ecology is a mess. We are always trying to extract joy from outside, but the real joy must come from within. All human experience is 100 percent self-created.
Peace and joy are not the goals of spirituality, but are the basic requirements for well-being. Someone who once came looking for Isha Yoga Centre asked a local boy, how far the centre is. The boy said 24,996 miles. The man was aghast. The boy told him the way you are going that is how far it is. However, if you turn around, it is just 4 miles.
If you go outward, the journey is endless. However, inward, is just a moment.
Doing the right thing
I was once at an international conference on how to alleviate poverty. It was attended by several eminent public personalities including Nobel laureates. One of the attendees asked ‘Isn’t all this divine will’? I said if your neighbour is poor, it is divine will, but if you are poor or your child is dying of hunger, you will do something about it. Else, it is destiny. Destiny is a term to deal with failure and reconcile ourselves, especially when we do not want to take responsibility for the situation.
One evening Shankaran Pillai went out with his friends for a quick drink. The quick drink spanned several drinks. Intoxicated and semi-conscious, he somehow managed to reach home. On the way, he fell into a rose bush and got bruises all over his face. He reached home, applied Band-Aid, and quietly slipped into bed. The next morning he woke up startled when his wife poured cold water over his face and dragged him to the bathroom to show him that he had stuck the Band-Aid all over the mirror.
To achieve well-being, we first need to fix ourselves first. Create your destiny towards your well-being, irrespective of what is happening around you.
One cold winter morning, an old man created a hole in the ice and started fishing with a crate of beer beside him. The cans got empty one by one and so did the basket of fish until 4 o’ clock. A young boy came along, with music blaring in his ears. Soon enough, the boy caught two big fish. The man shocked asked the boy his secret. He said one has to keep the worms warm to catch the fish.
Just like you need to water your garden regularly for it to flower or keep the worms warm, you must do the right things for the right things to happen to you.
One evening an argument ensued between a couple on who should close the front door. No laughing matter as for a married couple this or who turns off the light or who will take the dog for a walk that could become a cause for divorce. Whoever uttered the first word would have to open the door. Both sat in silence for the longest time. Two rogues passing by decided to try their luck. They walked in, took a few valuables, had dinner, and even kissed the wife. No one uttered a word until the rogues approached the husband with a razor to shave off his moustache. The husband shouted and thus closed the door and the silence ended.
Who was responsible in the above story? Who is responsible for what we are right now? Moreover, we all have the same story with different variations and different people to blame for our situation. No human being since ancient times needs any advice on how to create misery. Owing up responsibility changes your life. You are the master of your own destiny.
Responsibility is the ability to respond. When something goes wrong in office, we can point fingers or raise our temper. Alternatively, we could choose to take responsibility. It is not taking the blame, but responding to the situation. Looking for a solution rather than reacting. Anger is self-defeating. You are working against yourself.
Once, in the course of the Second World War, Nazi soldiers broke into a house in Austria, split the family, and took them away. There was a 13-year-old girl and an 8-year-old boy. They were taken to the railway station. All the children were bundled into an arriving train. The girl noticed her brother had forgotten his shoes in the bitter Austrian winter and shouted at him for being careless. At the next station, the brother and sister were separated and that was the last she saw of him. Years later, when she came out of the concentration camp, she was the only surviving member of her family and her last memory was the harsh words she had uttered. At that point, she made a profound decision. Whomever she meets, she would speak in a manner that would be remembered and not regretted.
The purpose of spirituality is to break the self-drawn boundaries.
The power of yoga
Yoga is the science of being in perfect alignment, absolute harmony and in harmony with existence. When in harmony with yourself, the energy flowing out will be beautiful too. A little happiness energizes us. Similarly even a small headache will take away our enthusiasm and affect our productivity. With yoga, our body and mind can be maintained at the highest level of capability and efficiency and our inner energies reach an unimaginable level of brilliance.
Yoga is the science of bringing gnana (intellect), bhakti (devotion), karma (action) and kriya (energy) together. For most of us, all four are in different directions and it is difficult to bring them together. It is about realizing that being human is super. To be joyful and peaceful within yourself are human possibilities, not super human qualities.
The body is the most self-contained and fascinating machine. Sit for a few minutes in front of a tree or a plant. Establish a psychological connection with the plant by inhaling what the tree exhales and exhaling what the tree inhales. Do this several times and slowly you will start connecting with everything around you.While observing those around you and their body posture, you will notice some have greater perception than others. If you sit with your spine erect few hours a day, it will affect your life immensely. You will know the geometry of your existence.
Our body is like the antenna of the cable TV. If it is in the right position, we will be receptive to all that is around. Else, we will remain ignorant to all that is beyond our five senses. In yoga, we learn to trust the body. The more we know our body, like a gadget, the better use we can make of it. Majority of us use only 1%.
Connecting with nature
Once, when I lived on a farm for many years, I met Chikkegowda, who was hard of hearing and hence talked less. People ridiculed him. I employed him to work on the farm. One early morning he was getting ready to plough the fields. I told him it was not going to rain. He was positive it was going to rain and it did.
The thought gave me sleepless nights trying to feel what the man felt. After 18 long months, I understood the earth, water, food, and air are not just commodities but an organic part of our life process. If it is going to rain today, some change will happen in your body. Most urban dwellers may not feel it. However, insects, birds, animals, trees and most rural dwellers the world over can sense it.
The body responds when it comes in contact with the earth. One of the reasons why spiritual people walked barefoot and sat cross-legged. It is a vital reconnection. If you fall sick often, sleep on the bare floor or with minimum separation. It will make a difference. Alternatively, collect some fresh soil, cover your hand and feet, and sit for 20 minutes. If you find a tree abundant in leaves or flowers, spend some time around it.
Suryanamaskar is not just a salutation; it organizes the solar energies within you. Sun is the life source. We must internalize and integrate it into our system for better benefit. Those who do Suryanamaskar regularly, their battery lasts longer. It is a complete workout of the rudimentary system.
Raghavendra Rao, also known as Malladihalli Swami, was known to do 1008 Suryanamaskar, which he reduced to 108 when he turned ninety years of age, due to paucity of time. He was also one of the few nadi vaidyas– who can judge your ailment by merely checking your pulse as well as predict your medical future. Every Monday he would be available as an ayurvedic doctor at his ashram irrespective of where he was the previous day. One Sunday, waiting on the railway platform for the train to take him to his ashram, there was no train because of a strike. He left his two companions and ran 75 km to his ashram through the railway tracks. Such was his commitment. He taught yoga until his last day at 106 years of age.
Building good eating habits
What you put in determines the quality of your body. Natural foods, in their uncooked condition bring enormous vitality and health to our system. What your body is comfortable eating is the most suitable. Other than a matter of survival, one must eat consciously and not be driven by taste buds.
A seed is the future of a plants life. It has immense nutritional value. Consuming seeds in any form can greatly enhance human health. Soak dry nuts in water for 6-8 hours before consumption. This will remove any toxic substances that may be there and will make digestion easier.
There is nothing spiritual or moral about the food that is to be eaten. It depends on the compatibility of the food with our body. If you want a body that suits intelligence or alertness or agility or a perceptive body, for each, you need to eat a different type of food. We need to chew our food properly. In modern life, we gulp our food, putting strain on our digestive system. With proper chewing, 55 percent of digestion happens in the mouth itself. Fruit is the most digestible food. Then come roots, crops, and meat.
Only 3 per cent of our body consists of protein. Excess proteins in excess may lead to cancer. This is true of meat too. Any excess will travel slowly through the alimentary canal, leading to excessive bacterial cavity, increased sleep, inertia, decreased cellular regeneration, and reduced perception. Thus, meat is spiritually unsupportive.
Acids and alkalis are produced in the body to digest their respective types of foods. When this gets mixed up, digestion takes longer and causes inertia. Traditionally, especially south in India, it was taken care not to mix up the foods. Now, food has become a social affair rather than for well-being.
Having a spoonful of ghee before a meal is very good for the digestive system. It will cleanse, heal, and lubricate the alimentary canal. Fish is the best non-vegetarian food to have. It is easily digestible and healthy.
Make eating a conscious process
When done with proper understanding and preparation, fasting is very beneficial. It nourishes without active ingestion. In yogic tradition, fasting day is fixed based on the lunar cycle. It is also called Ekadashi. Your ability to assimilate energy from water, air, and sunlight is higher on these days. Those who must eat can go on a fruit diet.
When you are very hungry, give yourself a space of few minutes. You will feel the difference and emerge stronger. Turning eating from a compulsive pattern into a conscious process is the essence of fasting. Keeping yourself fit should not be a battle. Do an activity you enjoy doing be it walking, swimming, jogging or playing a game. There is no need to program your body for eating and resting. When you work more, eat more and the day your activity is less, eat less. ‘Do not battle with life. You are life’. Death is not the end of life. It is just the end of the body.
Your body is a loan from the planet. If life has not been explored in its full magnitude and you have limited your life to the physical body, fear is a natural consequence. Life should be beyond the physical.
Experiential knowledge is the key
A man in search of supernatural powers found himself in a hermitage in the Himalayan wilderness. Guru asked the man to take a dip in the freezing Himalayan River early morning and utter the mantra asotoma sadgamaya three times a day spread over forty days and he will gain supernatural powers but he should not think of monkeys though. The man reached the banks of river Ganga took a dip and sat down to meditate. He said asotoma sadgamaya and monkeys popped in his head each time! He tried several postures for several days until he gave up and returned to the guru. The guru helped him understand that when intellectual understanding is not backed by experiential knowledge, mind games take over.
The most beautiful moments that you may consider moments of bliss, joy, ecstasy, or utter peace are those moments when you were not thinking, but just being in the moment. Our mental process is a very small percent of our life process, yet we give it too much importance. We need to shift to the significance of the life process.
Life is much more than reasoning
Once, Aristotle was walking along the beach, deep in thought about existence. There was another man on the beach, doing something so intensely that he did not escape Aristotle’s attention. The man was walking to the ocean and back repeatedly with intense focus. On questioning, he said that he was emptying the ocean into a hole with a spoon and was not to be disturbed. Aristotle laughed and reprimanded him for his madness. Emptying the ocean is surely not possible! The man then dropped his spoon and said his work on the beach was done. Aristotle thought his attempts at emptying the ocean was madness. However, what Aristotle was trying to do was worse, the man said. He explained to Aristotle that existence is vast with billions of such oceans, and he was trying to empty it all into his small head with tablespoons of thoughts. This man was Heraclitus, and that day on the beach, Heraclitus showed Aristotle how he was leading a crippled existence by trying to make reason for every existence. Thought cannot be bigger than life. It can only be logical.
You are less than a speck of dust in this universe, and if you think your thoughts should make sense of existence, then you have lost your life’s perspective.
Rigid identities hold us back
If we use the same knife to cut an onion, a cake, and then a fruit, everything tastes like an onion. Similarly once your intellect is identified with something; it gives you a completely distorted experience of the world. Moreover, every thought and emotion springs from that identity.
The bees, while making the beehive, do not do it with a plan. They have a natural blueprint in their systems. It is exquisitely designed, resilient and complex. They know exactly what to do with their body. Spiritual knowledge or ‘knowing’ is transmitted in the same way. You have an intrinsic intelligence that is not being used entirely.
‘In order to be on the spiritual path, you must first drop rigid notions of virtue and vice and accept life the way it is.’
It is possible to be separate this identification from us and can carry it without being burdensome. One of the biggest problems we face today is this rigid imposing of morality right from childhood. When people try their entire lives to avoid something ‘wrong’ or sinful, their mind is still constantly on it. Morality, though essential for social order, wreaks inner havoc. We must be able to look at everything in an unprejudiced manner in order to be joyful.
Love & suffering are choices
Love has become a means to satisfy ones physical, psychological, and emotional needs. There are conditions and there is love. Love is unconditional. It is an inner state that happens within you. If you can look at everything lovingly, the world becomes beautiful. Even if it is a small stone or tree that means nothing to you.
On a journey on my motorbike in a remote area, a freak accident happened and my calf muscle was slashed up to the bone. The doctor at the local clinic refused to treat for lack of anaesthetic facilities. He asked me to go to a hospital. I insisted that he treat me, as I had to continue my journey. I was bleeding profusely and adamant that he treat me. Finally, the doctor agreed. The doctor did 52 sutures without anaesthesia. I kept on a conversation while he managed to treat the wound. At the end, he asked me, ‘You did not feel the pain at all?’ I said, ‘Yes there was terrible intolerable pain. However, to suffer or not is a choice I make. Why make pain worse with suffering?’
We have all necessary resources and technology to address every issue. We have every tool at our disposal to make or break the world. Yet, we are not the most loving or joyful. Actually, we are on the brink of a global disaster in our relentless pursuit of external well-being. Many are ironically suffering the consequences of their success. Human consciousness is missing. Your joy, misery, agony, or bliss is in your hands.
There is a way out, and the way out is by going in. Together we can truly create a world of love, light, and laughter
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