What Is the Highest Purpose of the Practice of Yoga? Svatantrya.
Svatantrya means freedom and it describes the nature of the universe. Sva means “one’s own” and Tantrya means “freedom.” It’s not just any freedom. It’s ultimate freedom beyond which there is nothing more. It’s the highest quality of the Absolute that exists without boundaries or limitations. It is pure beingness, is-ness, vibration, and existence itself.
Happiness is tied to freedom because whenever you experience freedom, happiness follows.
Whenever you move from pain to ease, or limitation to less limitation, the freedom you feel comes as a relief, which is experienced as happiness and joy.
I am prone to getting migraine headaches when I experience high levels of stress or when my diet gets off balance. During the migraine, it feels like all of my energy systems shut down. I feel exhausted and moody, my breathing becomes constricted, and my head feels like it’s going to implode. I’ll never forget the joy I feel when finally the headache lifts. My whole energy level returns to normal and I feel free again. That shift from feeling the pain of the migraine to the relief of the headache is remarkable. It’s always accompanied by joy.
If the nature of the universe is freedom, then the nature of freedom is happiness.
There is no possibility for happiness without freedom. So if you want to be happy, go for freedom! Paradoxically, the way to freedom is through boundary. The Tantra tells us that the only way to be purely free, is to create healthy and clear self-boundaries. Clear boundaries, no limits!
“What does your heart most deeply desire?” If you don’t bind yourself to that, then something else will bind itself to you - which will probably be something you don’t want. You have to bind yourself in order to unbind yourself. Think about it…
Svatantrya is supreme freedom and independence where you can stand alone in your strength and power knowing who you are. You are an infinite being, a divine being.
There are different contexts for freedom. Everyone wants freedom from suffering. We all want freedom from oppression and war. We want to be free in relationship, which is tricky because we have to value interdependence over co-dependence in order to support each partner’s freedom.
Greater than all of that, in yoga is the freedom from self-tyranny.
Freedom from self-deprecation, self-rejection, shame, self-hatred, being harsh and unrelenting or unforgiving of ourselves. These negative acts toward the self really diminish our freedom and thereby our happiness.
A more subtle level of self-tyranny is self-doubt. We doubt our power, our potential for fulfillment, our gifts, our limitlessness, or that we can contribute and make a difference in life. At the very root of all doubts is the doubt that we are loveable, that we are worthy of love, that we are worthy to give and receive love from others. Yet even deeper and more fundamental than that, is the question, “Can I love myself?” For me, this whole life is about figuring that out, figuring out how to be me.
When I returned from vacation recently, I hit the ground running and worked my butt off for three days to catch up. It also rained steadily during this time, so I couldn’t ride my bike or exercise. I was chomping at the bit to move and work out. So, on the first sunny day, I did a triple workout – biking, swimming, and weight training. I knew I needed to prioritize my exercise in order to come back into harmony with myself.
After all of the workouts, I came home to my heart and fell back in love with myself.
The key to happiness is freedom.
The key to freedom is self-acceptance and love. How can we bring perfect acceptance to our perfect imperfections? I will leave you with that question to ponder.
May you reflect deeply on the answer that lives within your own heart. There you will find your Svatantrya, your own freedom!
I invite you to join me for regular practice of meditation and asana in the Ashaya Membership Live Online Program as we continue another month of the Summer of Yoga and Happiness!
Todd and the Ashaya Yoga Team