By Niraj Bidawatka
Mostly everyone who practices pranayama (breathing exercises) and asanas (bodily postures), thinks that he is on the spiritual path. But this is a wrong conception because he has no idea of the spirit soul. Unless one does not have any idea about the “spirit”, how can he make any “spiritual” progress ? Secondly, when such pranayamas and asanas do not, in any way, nourish the spirit soul, such a belief that “I am progressing on the spiritual path”, is a mistaken idea. This is called illusion, or maya.
When one starts doing yogic exercises, his body feels rejuvenated and fit and strong. This bodily fitness gives him a feeling of temporary happiness, which he mistakenly believes it to be as something spiritual. But in fact, it is not spiritual. It is a temporary material happiness because it is related to the body and the body can get destroyed at any time. Even if we keep the body very fit and strong, we shall have to die. The nature of the material body is that it is temporary and therefore any happiness which is related to the body is also temporary. Hence we cannot achieve any spiritual happiness by doing yoga postures and breathing exercises.
Spiritual happiness means eternal happiness, which increases at every moment. Such a happiness can be achieved by nourishing the spirit soul. The spirit soul, which is a minute invisible spiritual spark, is situated in the region of the heart and as long as the spirit soul is situated within the body, the body functions. As soon as the spirit soul leaves the body, it is called a dead body.
We are not happy in the real sense, because we are not nourishing the soul. Even if one possesses millions of dollars, one cannot be happy unless one nourishes the soul. Therefore, even millionaires are seen visiting temples, churches and mosques to seek for that real happiness, which they have not attained even after amassing millions of dollars. So, unless, one nourishes the soul, one cannot attain long lasting eternal happiness. And that happiness can be achieved by chanting the Hare Krishna maha-mantra because this divine hymn nourishes the soul. The mantra is composed of the holy names of God and therefore this divine chant nourishes the soul and purifies it from all sinful reactions.
Thus, when one chants Hare Krishna, he makes tangible spiritual progress. One cannot make any spiritual progress by doing pranayams and asanas. Such yogic exercises are recommended for those persons, whose minds are too restless, and who, due to a lot of accumulated sins in the heart, cannot outrightly chant Hare Krishna. By doing such pranayams and asanas under various yama and niyama (rules and regulations), they can gradually come to the point of chanting the holy names of Krishna, or God.
However, there is no harm in doing asanas and pranayams for keeping the body. But the point is, one should not remain in the false conception that, “I am making spiritual progress by doing such so-called yoga.” One can make spiritual progress by only chanting the holy names of God and by serving Krishna with love and devotion. So please chant Hare Krishna and make some tangible spiritual progress.
[This article is based on the teachings of His Divine Grace A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, the Eternal Spiritual Acarya of the Hare Krishna Revolution]