What does the word ‘yoga’ mean? It means ‘to link’, ‘united with’, or linked up with.’ The different paths of yoga are specifically designed to bring about a union or a linking, a coming together between the individual soul and the Supreme Soul. The perfect yogi is a perfect person who is perfectly linked, united with, connected with The Supreme Lord. This is what all yoga in its true state is designed to achieve. According to the teachings of the Vedas, this is the goal of life for the human.
We understand from these teachings that the soul inhabits many, many different bodies. In the Vedas it describes there are 8,400,000 different species of life. A species of life is a particular type of body in which a soul is residing. You’ve got your plants, your aquatics, your insects, your birds, and your animals, and so on, and ultimately humans. Most of the life forms in the material world are non-human; they are sub-human species. Also in the universe there are super-human species, those that are above the human, and these are known as demigods. But the point is: wherever there is life, there is a person, no matter what body that person may be in.
The soul evolves through one body to another body, to another body, higher and higher, and higher – there is a system. Ultimately the soul achieves the human form of life. When the soul finally achieves the human form of life, he has hit the jackpot; this is like a bonanza for the soul. Why? Because now the soul has an opportunity to become truly realized, to become self-realized, to realize who he is.
Obviously we know that the human body is a little different than the other bodies in the aspect of… we have more intelligence, we have more mental capacity, and we have more reasoning power. We also have more facilities to change things, to control things, to alter things, to invent things, to do things, etc., etc., etc. We can do many, many things that the lower forms of life cannot do because the human body affords us this opportunity.
The souls are the same, whether you are in a snake body, or a worm body, or a tree body, or a human body. The souls are all the same; they don’t change, they’re exactly the same. But the body makes it so that the person in that body can do different things, right? Aquatics can swim and live in the water because the body gives them that opportunity. Birds can fly because their body gives them that opportunity. Trees can bear fruit because their bodies give them that opportunity, etc., etc. So the bodies basically dictate what the soul does in the material world.
When the soul gets the human form, now it can do many, many things, because it has all of this advanced facility. But all of this advanced facility is purposely meant for spiritual realization, and that’s where the yoga teachings come in. The yoga teachings are for those in the human forms so we can understand our true identity to begin with. We just discussed who we truly are; we are spirit soul. If you learn one thing in your life as a human, this is the most important thing. But as simple as it really is, almost nobody knows this.
I remember one time I was giving a lecture in Far East Russia. After the lecture a lady came up to me and began to ask a question, and I could understand from her question: she didn’t understand this point that she was spirit soul and not her material body. So I stopped her and I said:
-Wait, wait, just a minute. Do you remember who you are?
-Who are you?
-I’m a woman.
-No, no, no. Think of the lecture.
I explained this like I just did. Now I said:
-Think of the lecture. Who are you really? Not woman body, but who are you?
-Hmm, I am human.
-No, no, no.
And then I explained again, “Remember you’re not the body, you’re the spirit soul in the body.”
The next night we had a follow up class and there was a group of people that came, and one boy was sitting right in front of me. I started the program with, “Does anybody remember who we are?” And this boy, right in the front, raised his hand, and I said, “Okay, who are you?” And he said, “I am the body.” I said, “Oh man…”
This is a difficult subject, so we can go to that true understanding of who we are. It takes realization, it takes clearing away all of the illusions, and that’s the yoga process.