The main project of yoga is to ground us in reality so that we might be aware of the experience of truth. The truth is now; in the present moment. There is not other reality. The past and the future are merely mirages in the distance. We cannot be sure of either, though on some level, everything that takes form in nature or in our minds has some level of truth to it. As yogis our task is to recognize the truth and keep our awareness fixed there.
This is one of the primary differences between what I would call authentic yoga and and inauthentic yoga; between modern branded yoga and traditional lineage yoga. This is the difference between idealism and reality. You cannot get to reality thru idealism; that’s the first thing that needs to be dropped. Ideology is the mask we hide behind; a popular belief we profess in order to avoid the real work of unmasking ourselves so that we might recognize reality. We cannot even begin to see ourselves thru ideology for it only reflects our fears.
Reality is here and now, naked and vulnerable; a lamb before god. Once one understands that we are always and everywhere at the mercy of time and space, then we can rise above the fear and trembling that keeps so many cowering and gasping to their ideals like a tattered security blanket unable to face the natural rhythms of life and death.
It seems to be very easy these days to point fingers at what is not yoga, I’ve also caught myself doing this at times. These attitudes become in vogue for a little while to criticize this or that and for a culture to have a look at itself. What I see is western yogis looking at western yogis and saying “wow, what a joke!” But every single person seems to think that they are themselves exempt from the joke. None of us are exempt from this joke. Buddha and Christ and these sorts of fellows may have been exempt from the joke, but the rest of us are just joke. We’re nothing, we’re just wandering thru life passing time thinking we’re this or that limited thing at odds against against some other limited things. All we see are these limits, these others, these things that need to get done, these things going on around us, these people and things that are separate from ourselves.
And yet we criticize. We look at others and we laugh at them. The athletes are laughing at the merchants selling yoga, the merchants are laughing at the masses who’s money their taking, the masses are laughing at how serious everyone is taking themselves, and the elitist intellectuals are laughing at everyone who will never know as much as they know. The intellectuals of yoga so fascinated with the topic hoped for years that the masses might discover the beauty of this knowledge and practice of yoga. They gave the knowledge freely to anyone who might have wanted it. It’s unlikely they even thought much about what would become of yoga.
It’s commonly taught in Vedanta that we are not the actors, we are merely instruments of divine consciousness. In other words, we are nothing and there is only the divine. This view is often considered fatalistic, but this is only for people who are afraid of the death of their body; people so attached to their activity and choices that to stop identifying themselves with these things would be paramount to death. But if what we are really is divine consciousness then we are everything. We give up this small limited perception of who we are and discoed that we are really unlimited. If this is indeed the way things work, then one can hardly call such a broad perception fatalistic. It would be much more fatalistic to perceive the world from this tiny space of the ego all the time facing some threat, some fear, some other.
This is what all of this criticism amounts to: fear. Fear that it is we who are doing everything wrong, fear the we ourselves do not know the way.
But what is it we’re practicing for? Why do we do this yoga? For others? Or, for ourselves! If yoga is a spiritual practice for you, then you’re likely doing it for your own self improvement; or for your own spiritual evolution. In this case, yoga should become a very special thing for you. Something you treasure and keep close to your heart, smothered in sentimentality and personal feeling. Nothing is so precious as ones own practice. We cannot expect others to understand what is closest to our heart.
It’s no different than being in love with someone and being told by your friends that “She’s not very pretty.” “She has a funny voice.” Or maybe they have some bad rumour from her past. What is the point in trying to defend your love? Nobody will understand it or appreciate it the way you do. Of course we want to share those things which have the most meaning to us; but in truth, unless a person really sees us for who we are then they will not understand our love or our precious practice which has given us so much. Most people will just wipe their dirt feet all over our most precious sentiments.
When we display our practice in front of the world, we cannot expect people to understand. What has meaning to one person is meaningless to the next. On the other hand, when we see people for who they really are, our hearts open to them and we are able to accept what is precious them and we are able to forgive many of their faults. Their joy becomes our joy and we identify with them like we do with our closest family.
The internet makes this difficult to identify with the people who are writing articles and sharing their views. I recently read a comment on one of these articles complaining about yoga in the west. The commenter asked: “ …are we really shedding tears over this woman’s mid-life crisis? Can we please elevate the discourse?” When I thought about it, the mid-life crisis is perhaps the most spiritual time in the lives of most western people. Perhaps if we did shed a few tears over this woman’s mid-life crisis, we would all come just a little closer to union. But who’s to judge, I’m not enlightened and I doubt if you’re enlightened, which brings me the one question we should all be asking ourselves: Why not?