Yoga is an act of Sacrifice. Bhakti Yoga, especially, is the Sacrifice by which we seek our teacher, whether that teacher is some god or another spiritual being, or some human, or knowledge itself. Brahmacharya - literally, the seeking of Brahma, is the means by which we are liberated from the Self, the Sat. That is why the sacrificial act is called Sattrayana (comes from satt-ra-yana, or sat-yana, both of which become roughly "self-sacrifice"). But Brahmacharya is the sacrifice by which we are liberated from our teacher.
The self, however, does not exist, per se. It is an emergent property of numerous conditions, as a fire is the emergent property of fuel, air and spark - and does not exist; it is the evidence of the conditions, and nothing more. So how is this sacrifice accomplished? In the sacrifice, the fire is permitted to exhaust its fuel, or is suffocated. We undertake a similar process with our self: either by directing its effort toward the exhaustion of its fuel, its karma, or by cutting the bonds of karma. (Karma is merely the co-conditioned cycle of cause and effect: by action we create the causes that effect us, both immediately and subsequently).
The Yogi, then, must learn to control their self, so that they may sacrifice it. The skills gained in learning this sacrifice are gained by sacrificing other things and other beings: a plant's flower, a piece of gold, an animal's life, a human life. We eat, daily, the corpses (and sometimes the living bodies) of innumerable beings to fuel our internal fire of caloric burn, sustaining our self. You must become like Agni, and recognize that the sacrifice made is not yours: you merely complete their sacrifice. Complete this sacrifice correctly, and understand the reason they sacrificed their selves: your life's actions justify their faith, creating conditions for a success they will never see. This action is at the heart of Grihastha, of Artha Yoga, the effort of livelihood and work, of job and family.
In manifesting Agni, we develop greater hunger, and learn the limits of our ability. Understanding when the sacrifice is completed, when our efforts are sufficient - this sufficiency is Svaha, Agni's wife. We come to love Svaha. And thus learn to love the act of Vanaprastha, the balancing of work with life, of enjoyment (not pleasure) of what we have earned, of Kama. The practice of Kama permits successful Sannyasa. It is by Kama Yoga that we learn to merge - and separate.
The Shiva Puja, in fact, is performed by "merging" with loved ones through what we would describe as "quality time," and is especially performed at night and on weekends. Shiva taught yoga relating to the interaction between self and others, the merging and separation of self (moksha/samadhi). When undertaken as a practice of yoga, to strengthen the bonds of love through joy and friendship, to merge in separation, and separate in merging, the "weekend" is a beneficial practice. The practice is similar to what Vishnu taught, regarding the combination of Kama and Artha, the work of enjoyment: what is earned must be enjoyed.
The Yogi learns to manifest other selfs, and thus, by increasing skill, discovers how to manifest Shiva, Vishnu and even Brahma. Combining selves, the yogi understands the maturity of Shiva-Parvati (Kartikeya), Shiva-Gauri (Ganesh), and many others. This matures into the ability to not only master Karma, but Dharma itself: as the volunteer firefighter can, at will and at need, manifest a different Dharma to fight fire, and then return to their usual Dharma, their usual duties and nature, the yogi becomes "capable of anything." Of loving, of friendship - of hatred and lying.
A master of Dharma must eventually learn to counterfeit it. Counterfeit Dharma includes even those training rules by which a Brahmachari practices, it includes those white lies intended toward the safety and security of others, the ambition of athleticism. Gold is too rich and soft to be used as currency. But by alloying it with lesser metals, it becomes suitable for coinage. The Yogi, by understanding the nature of all things, all beings, can transmit, can convey, the Dharma to another. Though the Rockefeller fortune was given away in tremendous generosity and charity, it was also given out by dimes: a little bit of Dharma is often all that is required for simple transactions, and can inspire greater action. Like Indra, who ignites the fires of Agni, the Yogi becomes the catalyst, the spark, by which tremendous fires are lit and upon which great sacrifices may be made. The conditions for enjoyment can be produced, and an end to distress result.
The Yogi learns the "Snake," and by carefully examining the floor of their Ashram, they notice things which they had ignored or not seen while standing. Understanding that they must establish justice before truly practicing, the Yogi carefully examines their world, and considers how best to create the conditions for the success of their practice of yoga. By performing the snake, they look even internally, and understanding what they have done wrong, and what they have failed to do right, establish the conditions for their success internally as well as externally.
Their Ashram is not only a place for their effort, and practice, but the practice itself. Yoga is the method, not the result, of Dharma.
There are numerous other sacrifices and asanas besides these, and especially the sacrifice of directions and light are very important. But it is important to begin with basics, that the principles are obtained. If you find these are too challenging, begin merely with the sacrifice of food: consider the life of all the beings you have killed and use to sustain your life, and the reason they gave their lives: the reason for your life: your duty, your nature, your Dharma. And if you are achieving that Dharma.
Understand that all things which exist had a beginning, and therefore must have an ending; know how to study their causes, and understand the means for success. It is possible to end distress, in your own life and in the lives of others; know how to grow stronger and smarter - then you can achieve your purpose, even without a teacher.
This is the purpose of a Bhakti Yogi - to not need their teacher any more. This is the manifestation of Parvati.
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