Our main concern is to maintain good health and keep our mind full of positive thoughts. It is usually said that Yogasanas practiced at a young age help in maintaining good health in old age, but most of us miss it due to lack of time and interest.
Our ancestors paid good attention towards the fourth stage of life and they unanimously concluded that one should strive for Moksha (salvation), i.e. the final release from the cycle of death and rebirth and be with God forever. Before one arrives at the fourth stage one is supposed to complete the first three aspirations of life, namely, earning of sufficient money judiciously (Artha, first stage), fulfill reasonable desires (Kama, second stage), and finish social or religious duties (Dharma, third stage).
In ancient India, it was customary for a king to hand over the reins of the kingdom to his son and retire to an Ashram in a forest. Such was their spiritual understanding that they left their riches in safe hands to achieve a higher goal of life. In the Ashram they had the company of wise sages, from the mouths of whom flowed the words of wisdom based on their experiences. Naturally those sages had pondered over and meditated on the higher goals of life. In modern times too, their views about life, God and Moksha, contained in the Upnishads, are much valued and practiced by wise people.
Presently, there are no forests as those mentioned in our ancient literature but we can adopt their views about life and death, i.e. salvation. Here is a very brief idea about Ashtanga Yoga (eight limbs of Yoga) which makes an aspirant wise in leading a healthy and wealthy life, gaining social respect, and achieving a spiritual goal.
The eight limbs of Ashtanga Yoga are – Yama, Niyama, Asnas, Pranayama, Pratyahara, Dharana, Dhyana, Samadhi. The first four are connected with the body and its relationships with others and the remaining four with the elevation of mind. Mind and body are inter-related and several diseases are caused or aggravated by mental attitudes (lust and passions, anger, pride, miserliness, attachment, jealousy, etc.). Therefore, spirituality seeks wellness of the body and cleansing of the mind from vices. If followed step by step then Ashtanga Yoga is most suited with the following benefits:
The five Yamas (moral codes) – Ahimsa (non-violence), Satya (truthfulness), Asteya (non-stealing), Brahmacharya (celibacy) and Aparigraha (non-covetousness) are essential to be observed for leading a peaceful life in family and society.
The five Niyamas (self-purification and study)– Shaucha or purity, Santosha or contentment, Tapa or austerity, Swadhyaya or self-study and Ishwar-Pranidhan, or meditation on God, are to be practiced for the peace and pleasure of the mind or the inner self.
Asanas or postures aim at good health and at the attainment of a sustained and comfortable sitting posture to facilitate meditation. Here good health means control of the cholesterol level, control of blood pressure, maintaining a proper body weight and strengthening the performance of the heart.
Pranayama is not simply a breath-control exercise but is about controlling the life-force or Prana. Pranayama is a technique, which improves our breathing process, helps us to release tensions and develop a relaxed state of mind. Moreover, by increasing the amount of oxygen to our brain it improves mental clarity, alertness and physical well being.
Now, the remaining four limbs are Pratyahara (control of senses), Dharana (concentration), Dhyana (meditation) and Samadhi (absorption into the formless God or with form, depending upon Dharana). These are supposed to be practiced under a spiritual teacher.
Those who pursue the goal of a satisfied life and beyond it have to ponder over Moksha: from what and why?A lot of literature with evidence is available on rebirth cases but one may not believe due to one’s religious belief or not having had such an experience. As scientists are renowned for their unbiased views and fair enquiries, in the same spirit one has to follow the path leading to such an experience or check the validity of Moksha.
Hence in the fourth stage of life one has to keep oneself busy in reading and understanding the philosophy of life and practicing techniques to achieve the goal.
It is said that a spiritual person maintains a good health through limited nutritious food, just sufficient to maintain his body and allow him to work reasonably and carry out extra-curricular activities like morning walk, yogasanas, studies etc. The objective of spirituality is to transform the mind riddled with impurities and fill it with positive thoughts, peace and bliss.
SP Sharma, India
I was born on 8 December 1945 and had self-realisation on 20 August 1977 at the age of 32. Thereafter I automatically shifted to the devotion path and a sort of relationship developed with God. Starting as a servant to God, then friendliness with God and then started liking God in child form. There is nothing left except to enjoy divine love and feel its presence in the whole world.