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Brother-Sister Act
Two children from the ashram get creative with their asana practice

True Happiness and the Goal of Life
Q&A with Swami Swaroopananda

Swami Swaroopananda is the Acharya (spiritual director) of Sivananda Yoga Centers and Ashrams on the West Coast of the United States, in the Middle East, and in the Bahamas, and is one of the foremost disciples of Swami Vishnudevananda. He is renowned for his spontaneous yet clear, concise, and complete answers to every question. This Q&A is from a Satsang at the Yoga Retreat during the May 2011 Yoga Teachers' Training Course.

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Often we hear that the goal of life is happiness. Isn't this a shallow, self-absorbed approach? Wouldn't love-compassion-understanding be a more noble goal? So perhaps you could clarify the goal of life and what is true happiness.

Answer:
Within our tradition we generally speak about four goals of every human being. We call them purusarthas.

One is called artha, which has to do with acquiring wealth in order to make a living, to be able to prosper within this physical reality. Another human goal is called kama, or fulfilling righteous natural human desires. Every human being has the right to fulfill these if he does not hurt others by doing so. The third human aspiration is dharma, which means righteousness. In a righteous life, every person fulfills his or her own duty for others so all can prosper, all can be happy by serving each other selflessly.

The highest human aspiration or goal is called moksha or spiritual liberation or the realization of the ultimate truth. By attaining this moksha, human beings are liberated for good from what we call suffering. Yogis like Lord Buddha have said since time immemorial that suffering is all-pervading. We may be blind and we may not see it, the suffering may be sugar-coated, but the more we acquire wisdom the more we become aware of the fact of suffering. That suffering is due to ignorance and liberation from suffering is the goal of many, many sentient beings, not just human beings. We have a wrong idea about what reality is, therefore we suffer. If we can bring in true knowledge about reality, ignorance will go and with it also the cause of suffering and then we will rejoice in our own true nature, in our own essential nature which is called in Sanskrit ananda, or bliss or supreme happiness. So the yogis are saying that every sentient being, not just the human being, strives to be happy and desires to be released from suffering for good. They are not very successful in this attempt but they continue to strive.

Happiness is not a little thing and moksha, or spiritual freedom, is called the Highest Good, the Supreme Bliss, the Ultimate Happiness. A happiness which has no opposite, a happiness which is not temporary, a happiness which has no limit, a happiness that does not go out of existence in the way that pleasures, for example, go out of existence. So yes, it is true, every sentient being desires to be free of suffering and every sentient being desires to attain ultimate or utmost happiness. We are sentient beings and we have the same desire and this is the noblest desire, but we go about it in the wrong way, we go about it in a selfish way. Selfishness leads to suffering while selflessness and serving each other paves the path to spiritual liberation and to the attainment of ultimate happiness.

Therefore, in yoga we first of all learn about karma yoga, the yoga of selfless service. We learn that we exist in order to serve each other, not just for our own selfish sake. And all of us, whether we know God or we don't know God, all of us, all creatures within creation, everyone is a servant of God. We exist in order to serve God by serving each other, this is why we exist. If we do it we will attain ultimate happiness, if we don't do it then we will stay in this vicious cycle of suffering and ignorance which is called samsara. The purpose of yoga is to teach us how to exit samsara, how to exit the vicious cycle of ignorance and suffering by following the different steps of yoga, this is the meaning of it.

Ashram Briefs

Activities Move to Cool and Quiet Meditation Room
During the warm summer months we have moved our satsangs and workshops into the air-conditioned Meditation Room. With two strong and quiet air-conditioning units, a thick door for noise reduction and beautifully decorated, the meditation room is the ideal setting for meditating, chanting and teaching.

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Our new convection oven produces
perfectly baked food.

New Convection Oven Makes
for Great Baking

Our new convection oven is now installed and operative. Allowing optimal baking conditions, the convection oven produces perfectly baked fresh bread, delicious pastries and crispy baked vegetables to the delight of all. Many thanks to everyone whose generous donations made this upgrade possible.

Quinoa Tabouli for Delicious Summer Eating
Last month one of our food experts, Grace Van Berkum, gave us a great recipe for raw cilantro dressing. It was so good that we asked her for another summertime dish and she provided this recipe for quinoa tabouli that's healthy, light, refreshing, vegan, gluten-free, easy to digest, and energizing!

1 cup quinoa soaked and cooked
2 large bunches of parsley
1 handful of fresh mint
1/2 cup fresh lemon juice or more to taste
1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
4 medium tomatoes
4 cucumbers diced
sea salt to taste
grated organic lemon to taste (if not organic, wash very well)

1. Chop parsley and mint.
2. Dice the tomatoes and cucumbers and toss together with the other ingredients.
3. Add sea salt, fresh lemon juice and rind and olive oil. Toss and chill until ready to eat.

Grace will present Cooking for Life Force, Vegan Nutrition Course January 15 - 17, 2012