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Our True Purpose—Fulfillment and Freedom

By: Michael Ketterhagen

One of the most powerful and uplifting passages that I have read lately moved me from a state of depression to a state of conviction and joy. My yoga teacher, Pandit Rajmani Tigunait, wrote an essay, “The theory and practice of Sankhya Yoga.” I found the article in the appendix of his book, The Secret of the Yoga Sutra.

We are all afraid of death, he says, and we will “succumb to it” someday. We believe that there is nothing that we can do about it. “The score of afflictions—fear, doubt, anger, anguish, regret, guilt, shame, feelings of unworthiness, to name only a few–haunt us.” But, “we are not born for this,” he says. 


“We are born to attain freedom from the acquired [negative] tendencies of our mind, to minimize the influence of avidya, and, eventually, to transcend it all together.” We are born to break the bondage of suffering and death.

Fortunately, God has provided us human beings with “several ways to achieve this goal.” 

The most straightforward approach is to undertake a practice that consists of methodical meditation and non-attachment, coupled with trustful surrender to God,” Pandit Rajmani says. Christianity provides some of those other ways, such as “Centering Prayer,” or “Christian Mantra Meditation,” or meditating on the life of Jesus Christ while praying the rosary. 

But first, what is “avidya?”


“Avidya” is translated as “ignorance.” According to the yoga tradition, we are ignorant of our true essence, our true Self. Instead, we mentally identify ourselves with our physical world and our concerns about the physical world and our future death, which is often an unconscious concern. Our identification with those concerns creates all those “afflictions” in our life. They lead us to the sleep of death at the end of our physical life. Because we are so engaged with our sufferings we forget that we are divine, infinite, and perfect beings—made in the image and likeness of God (Gen 1:27).

As Pandit Rajmani says, “there are several ways to achieve this goal.” Of course, in my experience, yoga is the most straightforward because “the purpose . . . of yoga practice is to purify the mind, make it one-pointed, and train it to flow peacefully inward.” When we move inward, we begin to deal with the issues that restrain us from experiencing our loving, joy-filled core. We begin to deal with the negative aspects of our personality that inhibit us from acting more like the Divine being that we are. As Christians would say, we are no longer aware of Christ within us. We begin to move away from our lower self—that part of us that is filled with fear and possessiveness and a demand for control. We begin to surrender ourselves to the Divine, God who is within us.

When we do this, we move ourselves to the point of experiencing ourselves as an immortal being, just like Lord Jesus experienced. After his death, he moved again into Eternal Life.  Christianity believes that we can experience that Eternal Life. And so does yoga. However, yoga says that we can experience it while we are citizens of the Earth. Catholic Christian saints, like Teresa of Avila, say that a person who spends time in meditation, contemplating the life of Jesus, the Christ, while practicing her rule, “The Way of Perfection,” will experience Eternal Life. Or Catholics today are taught that a person who meditates on the Presence of Christ in the Eucharist will experience that Risen Lord in their daily lives.  

Each of these practices, like yogic meditative practices, are processes that move one towards a purified mind, a one-pointed mind, a peaceful mind. In that experience, one knows that physical death doesn’t mean anything at all. One moves from the experience of the unreal to the real, from the experience of darkness to light, from the experience of mortality to immortality—Asatoma sad gamaya; tamaso ma jyotir gamaya; mrityor ma amritam gamaya—as I chant every day in my yoga morning prayer.

One moves to Eternal Life—the purpose of our life—fulfillment and freedom from the bondage of death and suffering.

I bow to the divinity within you!

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