Yoga in Love and Relationships

Author: Adrienne R. Atiles

Adrienne R. Atiles

Swami Rama was a great sage who was a primary figure in bridging Eastern philosophy and spiritual thought with Western science and beliefs. Raised in the Himalayan foothills by a Bengali yogi, Swamiji studied with various spiritual adepts growing up, learning and living traditional yoga science. He received his higher education at universities in India and Oxford in England. At the age of twenty-four, Swamiji became Shankaracharya of Karvirpitham in South India, one of the highest spiritual positions in the subcontinent. After renouncing the post, he studied Western philosophy and psychology with the aim (encouraged by his master) to bring Eastern teachings to the West. But before this, he made the surprising move, again at the encouragement of his guru, to renounce his monastic life and live fully in the world. His master believed that the best way to be a true teacher and counselor was to know how people of the world lived. Thus Swamiji spent time as a married householder and businessman, until the time came that he was called back to what he felt was his true calling, the higher spiritual path.

The ups and downs and ins and outs of Swamiji’s life are fascinating and truly inspiring. He spent the latter years of his life traveling the world teaching the science of yog in a practical way that is easy for the ordinary person to understand and feel a connection with; this work continues at the Himalayan International Institute of Yoga Science and Philosophy, which he founded in 1969. He truly believed that we all can live a divine life, whether we choose to renounce all worldly things as a renunciant or live in this modern world. Swamiji’s ability to keep the mundane and spiritual worlds together has inspired people from every corner of the earth. Indeed he lived his life like the lotus flower, the symbolic representation of yog itself—in the world yet above it, understanding everything that went on around him but always remaining above the muck. Swamiji left his body in 1996, but continues to inspire new generations of aspirants.

Many believe that the life of the renunciant or monk is superior to the path of the ordinary person. Yet Swamij asserted that the path of love, relationships, marriage, and family life is also divine: “The highest aim of life is to possess the deeper happiness that is eternal, undisturbed, and unchanging. To achieve such happiness, human beings need to understand not only themselves but others as well.” After all, if one cannot live in peace with one other person, they cannot readily hope to live in harmony with humanity itself. In this way, family life can serve as a universal love training ground, of sorts. First one must be content with and love oneself, for happiness cannot be expected from anyone—it is something that can only be found within. Then one must practice openness, love, acceptance, and selflessness with one’s partner and family. When we first become aware of our own innate, divine nature, we attain a state of freedom from fear, pain, and misery. We realize happiness within ourselves and come to learn to share that happiness with others. In love, we see the Self in all of those we love. This helps us to shed egotism and challenges us to accept and serve others without selfishness.

Swamiji teaches that selfless action is the real expression of love. When we give with no expectation or thought of reciprocation, then we can truly evolve beyond the limitations of our individuality. Expectation then, is the “mother of all misery in relationships,” and indeed in life itself. No want, even if fulfilled, will ever make you truly happy, for once a desire is met, another and then another will appear. Instead, we should work toward the highest realization of love by practicing selfless action for our partners. When a couple can achieve such love, respect, and awareness of the divine in each other, it is possible to attain the highest state of enlightenment possible while still living in the mundane world.

To succeed in a healthy relationship, it is imperative that those two people practice sharing, tolerance, and acceptance of each other as separate individuals and as equals. Many people say that when a couple forms a union, they become one—but this is actually not true. They still remain individuals with their own personalities and preferences. Instead, we may think of them as the number 11—two equals working together as companions with a shared commitment and purpose. Then real awareness can be gained, by each person becoming aware of and sensitive to something apart from themselves. This is a leap toward developing a deeper human consciousness. This expansion is love in action.

People often quote high divorce rates, particularly in the West and especially in the United States, as reasons to be pessimistic about love, relationships, and marriage. While it is true that one should never remain in an unhealthy or abusive relationship, it also seems that as time progresses, people have been less willing to put in the work and attention necessary to sustain a union. Perhaps if more people were willing to keep focused commitments and accept their partners with selfless love, there would be more harmony in relationships overall.

Swamiji says that “no manual in the world explains what love is, except the teachings of yoga.” At the heart of this is the concept of ahimsa: not killing, harming, or injuring. In this practice, again begin with those closest to you. When you have chosen someone to share your life with, you must first practice ahimsa at home, for it is love in practice. Love should grow from the senses to the mind, and from the mind to the spirit. If it does not grow, it cannot truly be love. The realm of the senses is merely one small glimpse of Reality. When we learn to lovingly, skillfully, and selflessly navigate our relationships, then inner fire and light is awakened. And isn’t this what we are here to accomplish?

Ultimately, if two people become aware that the purpose of their union lies beyond the gross levels of physical and emotional satisfaction, then their life together can bloom like a flower. In this way, the mundane path of love is truly divine.

The views expressed are solely those of the author. may or may not agree with all statements.

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