My dad was someone who liked knowing things. He was interested in anything from ancient hieroglyphics to cloud computing. His knowledge, though, was often more theoretical than practical. During the time instant messengers were widely used, he took it upon himself to get an account. One day I got a message from him. The first message said: hello. Shortly, a second message said: enter. So he thought that was how it worked. He understood how it worked, and yet he did not really understand how it worked. It is the same for us yoga practitioners. We understand how yoga works, yet we do not really understand how yoga works, not until we have the full commitment to practice it anyway.
Our mind has the capacity to understand many concepts. We are intelligent that way. We could have great ideas- how to have a successful business, how to save the environment, how to change the world- but if we are stuck in thinking, and do not move to feeling and doing, then nothing is going to happen. We would just be involved in intellectual entertainment, a hobby of sorts. We can say we know all the reasons why we need to stop consuming animals and their secretions, but until we take action and live vegan, our knowledge is for naught. We can say we have the capacity to innovate technology that will clean up the seas, but until we collaborate with others to make it happen, the words in which we used to describe it would just be fiction. And so our intelligent minds can understand yoga and its philosophy and concepts of liberation and enlightenment, but until we practice it with all our five koshas or five bodies of the self, until we practice the yamas, until our thoughts, words, and actions are directed towards indiscriminate compassion, our yoga practice is just for entertainment.
The intellect itself is neutral. Our species has invented things like electricity and airplanes and the internet. We have also invented guns and bombs and GMOs. Our intelligence can create or destroy, liberate or oppress, include or alienate. That is why the use of our intellect must be closely tied to our instrinsic connection with our heart.
Imagine a world where we each used our intelligence in a way that benefits the collective well-being. Instead of upgrading our technology every 3 months, what if we upgraded our sense of humanity? What if, with the intelligence and skills that we already have, we take action to make a better world? If we choose to do that, then we use our intelligence not only on the theoretical level but on the practical level. If we choose to do that, then our yoga practice bursts out from the seams of superficial entertainment and starts to take on depth and meaning. At the end of the day, isn't purpose what intelligence seeks? At the end of our lives, would we not value the practice of intelligent compassion more than any kind of meaningless pastime?