Contained within the timeless teachings of Yoga is a treasure trove of knowledge, practices, solutions, and secrets that modern society has just barely begun to uncover. Because of the ever-increasing interest in Science of Identity Foundation and world-renowned yoga spiritual master Jagad Guru Siddhaswarupananda, Science of Identity Foundation is publishing this series of questions and answers where Jagad Guru reveals the essence of yoga wisdom in a clear and logical manner, allowing people from any background or belief system to contemplate on and apply these authoritative teachings in their personal lives.
Question: What does “Science of Identity” refer to?
Answer: We use the phrase “science of identity” to describe the process of uncovering what already exists — uncovering who you really are. Through meditation and other yoga practices, the layers of misunderstanding or mis-perception are gradually cleansed away, thereby revealing the truth that already exists. It’s like a diamond that’s covered with dirt and debris. If you wash off the different contaminants, then the brilliance of the diamond is revealed. Similarly, the science of yoga, or the science of identity, is the process of uncovering the truth that already exists. It has nothing to do with you believing it or not believing it. You’re either perceiving the truth or you’re not perceiving the truth, but regardless, the truth is there.
Question: But why is yoga called a science?
Answer: Yoga is a called a science because it is the step-by-step process of understanding the reality of our spiritual essence, the Supreme Soul, and our eternal connection to the Supreme and all living beings. It is not a belief system that changes over time or something a person can join or quit. It is a personal journey of self-discovery, a process of uncovering the eternal, spiritual knowledge and love that lies dormant within us, and it is open and accessible to everyone. Just like anyone with a microscope can observe the structure of a cell, anyone who applies the tools and techniques of yoga science has the ability to observe and experience the reality of their spiritual essence.
Question: What do you mean by “spiritual essence”?
Answer: Most of us identify with our body and all the labels attached to our body. So if someone asks me who I am, I might say, I’m a man or I’m a woman, I’m tall, I’m short, I’m 40 years old, etc. Or I might respond with details about my nationality, my ethnicity, my profession.
Through yoga, we realize that the physical body is a set of outer garments and the mind is like our undergarments. Beneath our clothes, covered by the body and the mind, there exists an eternal spiritual self. In Sanskrit, the word for the spiritual self is “atma.” You, the atma, are like a ray of sunshine emanating from the Supreme Sun — the Original Cause or the Supreme Soul. To understand your eternal spiritual nature and your relationship with the Supreme Soul is self-realization. This is the state of yoga.
If you’re not in touch with and acting on the basis of your spiritual identity, you’ll always experience disharmony and anxiety in your life because even if you satisfy your body’s senses, still you — the self — will not be satisfied.
Question: Anxiety is a growing problem in society. Can you say more about that?
Answer: Yes. The rising rates of anxiety are not surprising because we’re surrounded by a very materialistic society. The cult of materialism preaches that you are your body, you are material, and that you can become happy by attempting to satisfy the demands of your body and your mind. Because this false belief is so deeply embedded in our society, each of us has to learn by trial and error that this actually isn’t true. Each of us has to discover on our own that even when we have all the food, toys, and material comfort in the world, we still aren’t happy. So, this produces a state of intense anxiety not only because we aren’t satisfied in ourselves, but on top of that, we’ve exhausted the only strategy we’ve been given for achieving satisfaction.
And even more, now we’re surrounded by advertising and images on social media of people who appear to be achieving happiness through material things, so it can be very isolating and alienating to feel like you’re the only one who isn’t able to experience this supposed material bliss. People start to feel like there’s something wrong with them, when in fact it’s completely natural to feel anxious, empty, or depressed if you, the self, are being starved of the spiritual food you need to survive. That spiritual food that we need to feel happy is love — love for the Supreme and love for all living beings.
We’re so accustomed to trying to find satisfaction outside that we do not know that real satisfaction is within ourselves. So in the Bhagavad-gita, Krishna says that the yogi, the mystic, finds happiness within. Jesus Christ describes that the kingdom of God is within. I am the spirit soul and I need to focus upon my relationship with the Supreme Soul. I need to cultivate that relationship. Then I begin to experience inner happiness.
“So in the Bhagavad-gita, Krishna says that the yogi, the mystic, finds happiness within. Jesus Christ describes that the kingdom of God is within. I am the spirit soul and I need to focus upon my relationship with the Supreme Soul. I need to cultivate that relationship.”
Question: What are some practical steps to overcome anxiety?
Answer: The practice of mindfulness can be very helpful. It actually has a primary benefit and a secondary benefit. The secondary benefit is that it helps you experience relief from stress and anxiety.
Once you realize that you can watch your mind, that you can watch the stream of thoughts go by as a passive observer, it creates a kind of distance between you, the observer, and your thoughts. So if your thoughts are disturbing or causing you stress, instead of getting caught up in them and reacting to them, you are able to stand a little apart from them and just watch them come and go.
It’s the same thing with emotions. You learn to notice when you are feeling sad, angry, stressed, depressed, happy, or excited, and so on. You begin to see yourself as the observer of the emotions you are experiencing. You know that these feelings don’t really have anything to do with your real self, and that they will pass. This helps prevent you from getting swept away by them.
So this mindfulness practice, which cultivates a real experience of who we are and that we are separate from our minds, helps bring about a sense of inner calm. It’s not just theoretical, superficial, or temporary, but comes from a place of real understanding of who we are. Of course, we may forget sometimes, but the more we practice, the more we will remember that we are the atma or spirit soul who is observing the mind and emotions.
“So this mindfulness practice, which cultivates a real experience of who we are and that we are separate from our minds, helps bring about a sense of inner calm.”
Question: What is the primary benefit?
Answer: The primary benefit from the yoga perspective is that it helps you realize that you are not your mind. Most people falsely identify themselves with either the gross physical body or the subtle body, the mind. But from the yoga perspective, believing that you are either your physical body or your mind is a misconception, a misunderstanding. The aim of yoga is to become free of misconceptions.
So the mind awareness technique of meditation helps you realize that you are not your mind, but rather that you are the observer of the mind. Once you realize this, then you naturally must ask: well, who am I? I know that I am the perceiver of the content of my mind, I’m watching the mind. So I know that I exist. So the question I must ask myself is who am I? I am not the body and I’m not the mind. Who am I?
From here one begins to contemplate upon themselves, on their own true essence.
From the Vedic or yoga perspective, you are the eternal atma or spirit soul temporarily covered by a material body and material mind. You are in fact a part and parcel, a spark, of the Supreme Soul, the Supreme Atma. In other words, each person is a spirit soul or atma, a child of God. And we are simply temporarily using these material bodies that cover us — the gross physical body and the subtle body, the mind.
“From the Vedic or yoga perspective, you are the eternal atma or spirit soul temporarily covered by a material body and material mind.”
The mindfulness technique helps you understand this truth. One can practice it here: