“Yoga practice, the process of purifying one’s existential identity, is based mainly on self-control. Without self-control one cannot practice freedom from animosity. In the conditional state, every living being is envious of another living being, but in the liberated state there is an absence of animosity.” (Shrila Prabhupada, Shrimad Bhagavatam, 3.14.46 Purport)
Is it better to live with animosity or without? If the strong hostility is directed towards someone who is deserving of punishment, then perhaps the emotion is warranted. Certainly it is not beneficial to feel animosity towards man as a whole. The majority of the people of this world have done nothing to us, so why should our decision be cast in either direction, considering them friend or foe? With real yoga practice, animosity is eliminated, something that is beneficial.
Real meditational yoga practice brings about tremendous abilities. In Sanskrit the rewards of yoga are called siddhis, which means “perfections.” You can do amazing things as a yoga-siddha. You can become lighter than air. You can become very heavy in a matter of seconds. You can travel anywhere using just your soul. You can course through air, feeling freer than a bird.
These successes hinge upon control of the senses. Sort of like the mother who miraculously lifts a car when her child is in danger, the living entity is capable of amazing things. We’ve often heard people describe an amazing accomplishment in their life by saying, “I don’t know how I was able to do that.” For whatever reason, they were able to stretch their abilities past whatever limits they thought existed.
The perfections of yoga show exactly what the real limits are. Since the siddhis can only arrive after strict control of the senses, naturally there are many extra benefits that come along. If you control your senses, you are in good health. You are not overweight. You don’t have difficulty breathing. The life breath, prana, is controlled in one of the methods of yoga. Therefore a yogi can extend their duration of life.
To the person who is truly knowledgeable, the siddhis of yoga aren’t very important. Bhakti-yoga is more important because it provides a reward of far greater significance than the ability to fly or the ability to read minds. Think about it for a moment. If today you were given the ability to fly to wherever you wanted, what would it mean to you? Surely it would be pretty neat to just go wherever you want. Then soon after people would expect things from you. “Hey, can you go here? Hey, can you go there for me? It shouldn’t be a problem since you can fly to wherever you want.”
The enhanced ability brings added pressures as well. Duality is the nature of the temporary world, where spirit souls who are eternal in their constitution remain in bodies that constantly change. The final transformation occurs at death, where the old body is replaced for a new one. In bhakti-yoga, the reward is something that is beyond duality. The reward is love for God. Since bhakti-yoga is the highest form of yoga, the same benefits of meditational yoga arrive very easily.
“Subsisting on fruits and milk, chant Shri Rama’s holy name for six months. Tulsidas says that by following this formula all auspiciousness and every perfection will arrive in the palm of your hand.” (Dohavali, 5)
Just as in meditational yoga, in bhakti self-control is very important. And from that self-control, one is able to steer clear of animosity. If you go the other route, you have no choice but to have animosity. If you are raising a child and you always give them what they want, how will they learn to deal with adversity? None of us is God. This means that we can’t always get what we want, even if someone else is providing things to us on a constant basis. That moment that we have to do without, we will feel hostility towards those who do have. Intense envy of the wealthy is due precisely to a lack of self-control. Thinking that others who do have something are so much better off, the person lacking self-control feels intense hostility over something that isn’t very important in the grand scheme.
Prahlada Maharaja was a famous bhakti-yogi. He had self-control through just chanting the holy names of the Lord. He only thought of his beloved Vishnu, which is one name for the personal aspect of God. Prahlada’s father was not as self-controlled. Previously he had been austere for a while, but that was for a specific purpose. He wanted to catch the attention of higher authorities so that they would give him rewards. Once his purpose was fulfilled, he went back to being uncontrolled in his sense urges.
Therefore he felt animosity towards Prahlada when the boy started worshiping God. The father tortured the son in so many ways, and when the father was finally killed by God Himself, Prahlada still lamented. He felt sorry for his father, though he deserved the ghastly slaying at the hands of Narasimhadeva. Prahlada showed the benefits of self-control, which are easily acquired through fixing the mind in devotion to God. That same self-control is available to anyone who regularly chants the holy names, “Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare,” and steers clear of meat-eating, intoxication, illicit sex and gambling. The positive and the negative go hand in hand, and a nice side benefit is lack of animosity, which means more time for felicitous celebration of the person most worthy of it.
When control of senses to lack,
Hidden animosity to attack.
At others’ possessions to stare,
That they have more so unfair.
In bhakti-yoga on sense demands put a latch,
No more at every itching to scratch.
Compassion then for all others in sight,
Like Prahlada towards demon father’s plight.