A devotee was saying the other day that she feels repelled by the thought of using techniques to know God. Many people feel that way. But their feeling is based on a great misconception. They believe that yoga techniques reduce to mechanics what ought to be a relationship of love. In fact, that isn’t what yoga techniques are about at all, as may be inferred from the great love that is manifested by true yogis.
For people like this devotee, perhaps the word law might be more helpful. For surely they would not deny that God requires of us that we abide by His law, and not flout it. The techniques of yoga are simply a recognition of certain laws of our own spiritual nature that are unfamiliar to most people.
If a girl tried to win a man by using “techniques” such as flattery, or pretending a sweetness that she doesn’t really feel, she might well be accused of insincerity. But if, on the other hand, she were to recognize that her inability to win him has been due to certain flaws in her own nature, then surely it would be a sign of her sincerity if she tried to improve herself.
This is the purpose of using yoga techniques. They are a means of self-improvement, that we might make ourselves a more fit instrument to receive and express God’s love. They are in no sense a means of “compromising” God into revealing Himself! But if we know that for lack of such self-improvement we keep Him out of our hearts—so much so that He simply cannot come—surely it will be a sign of our love for Him if we practice those methods which have been found helpful by others who have known Him. The true devotee will leave no stone unturned in his search for the Infinite Beloved.
Another point, too, might be considered: If you know that a friend is planning to visit you, and if you are eager to receive him, will you busy yourself making noises in the kitchen that might prevent you from hearing the knock at the door when it comes? Will you not rather stand in the doorway, and watch for your friend’s approach from afar? Divine grace enters the body in certain definite ways. Is it so insincere to put oneself in readiness to receive it? The reason yogis teach one, for example, to concentrate at the point between the eyebrows is because that’s where the divine light, when it comes, appears to the devotee. Yoga techniques are simply a process of cooperation with divine grace; they are not an imposition on it.
All, truly, is God’s grace. Yoga practices are not intended as a bypass of that fact. Kripa is the Sanskrit word for grace; it is used more often in India than our English word is ever used in this country. Yogis well know that one cannot command God’s grace. But if we truly believe in His love for us, we must believe also that His grace is not whimsical—that He would bless us even NOW, if we were but ready to receive His blessings. Our task is not to wheedle or “con” Him into giving us more than our fair share of grace; it is to ready ourselves to receive. Were we fully receptive, by God’s grace we would become Christlike even now—today!