Tag Archives: Patanjali

The Ground of Yoga: Why is yoga different from everything else we do?

What is the ground of Yoga? What is it that makes yoga unique and special setting it apart from all the other activities we perform on the course of the day or throughout our lives?

According to Patanjali, Yoga is the cessation of the fluctuations of the mind.

yoga cittavrtti nirodaha

Thru tradition we are advises to ground ourselves in our practice in a similar way.

Om shree ganesha namaha

Any kind of spiritual exercise begins with supplication to Ganesha, famous as the remover of obstacles, and our mind being the biggest obstacle to spiritual realization. The little rat (rodent) he uses as a vehicle is always chewing like the mind. You’ll also see his image or some symbol relating to him at the entrance ways of temples and some homes.

 

A fairly famous way of opening into a spiritual practice like yoga and meditation goes like this:

Om shree ganesha namaha

Om aparvitro pavitrova sharva vashtang

gato o piva yashmaret pundari

kaksham asavantra suchii

Om madhai namaha

Om keshai namaha

Om Rishikeshai namaha

Om pundari kakshan punatu x 3

Om apsarpantu te bhuta, ye bhuta bhuvi sanshitas

ye bhuta vignakartarste nashyantu

Shiva jnana

Om namaha shivaya

After supplicating Ganesha, it goes on to purify the body internally and externally thru supplication to Vishnu the great preserver and operator of the three gunas within the main trinity of gods at the level of Ishwara. After the purification rights (pundari kakshan punatu), we insist that ghosts, latent desires (apsar) and mental impressions of the past be banished from disturbing us from our practice. This will happen by reaching the level of Shiva knowledge (Shivajnana); universal consciousness. So from this we want to practice from a ground of Shiva consciousness.

As we continue our contemplation of the earth tattva, we have to remember that Shiva descended as far as earth and then stopped. He could have descended further, he can do as he likes, thus they say, he likes earth the best. Shiva descends to the most impure gross dense point of earth before making the ascension back thru the tattva.

In this regards, I think of all these people who ask about past lives and such things. If we consider the tattva of tantra, the individual soul exists below the maya tattva, so even our soul is subject to time and the rest, which allows for linear progression and thus past lives. Time, of course takes on a different dimension relative to the birth and death of that soul so when we think about past lives we need to consider that that soul too will make a complete cycle from purity to impurity to purity once again. Such a realization might be the Sankya ideal of kaivalaya for the duality is still there, but Tantra advises to press on beyond the knots, otherwise known as the universal womb, that separate us from from the supreme consciousness, which is the realization of the non-difference between the universal and the individual: moksha; liberation in this life. Patanjali’s yoga cittavrttinirodha is both the the definition of yoga and the means to stopping the fluctuations. We stop (nirodha) the fluctuations (vrtti) of the mind (chitta) by bringing them together in union (yoga). You could say that the project of yoga is to harmonize the mental fluctuations; the cittavrtti.

Going back to the original question of this article, what makes yoga unique. Yoga shares many similarities to creative projects like dance and the arts which also seek a kind of harmony between the artist and the mythical spirits which moves his hand to draw of feet to dance. But there is a subtle. Of course, one could make arguments for dancers at the highest levels reaching a kind of samadhi; but this says little stress, tension and competition that mark the a climb. The truth is that dance very typically has numerous undesirable side effects related to vata and pitta excess and diminished kapha. This is the exact opposite of what yoga is trying to do: cool, calm, lubricate and nourish the body and ultimately the universe. Harmony is something we seek on all levels, but only when we act for something far greater than ourselves or our limited sphere of perception to we strive for yogic perfection: balanced body, balanced mind, balanced spirit.

Sankya will take you to a firm notion of duality, while Vedanta will soften that sense of duality with the Brahman, but will maintain some sense of maya, while Buddhism is said to take you to the void, Tantra is said to carry us beyond the void to the very source of the arising, sustenance, falling away of every mental impression, experience, and the whole universe. I suppose you could say that dance will allow one to harmonize with some few others, Sankya will aid in harmonizing with most others, but only Tantra seeks harmony with the entire universe.

How is yoga a complete system?

Yoga is life. Dharma is the path of our life. Indifferent Atman is being carried along this path thru maya by the body. Know what maya is! Know what Atman is! Know your dharma. Know yourself! Know God!

The Eight limbs. Practically speaking. 1. How we treat ourselves. 2. How we treat others. 3. our posture throughout the day. 4. Breahing. 5. Control of our senses. 6. Concentration. 7. Awareness of true reality. 8. and it doesn’t feel right for me to even speak of this eighth limb.

Be aware of yourself and what your relationship with the other truly is. Master your body and your breath by becoming more and more aware. Control your senses knowing the source of all your desires. Be aware, be totally totally aware of all states of being. Know the root of all perception and act as witness rather than as actor or re-actor. Complete acceptance of all of life (truth consciousness contentment).

So yoga teaches you to know yourself thru all states of your being, all states of consciousness, and all states of mind. It gives lessons on how to act, how to work, how to teach to give to receive to live… it does this while still leaving the doors open to anything. Yoga accepts ever action, every behaviour, every bit of thing or happening that comes and goes from existence. Yoga accepts that everything comes and goes. Everything that arises, passes away. It also teaches that whatever changes cannot be real because truth does not change. We’ll maybe get into this another time.

In the mean time we have to take care of these ever changing (and thus very “unreal) bodies. We have to act with some degree of care, use our body (our muscles, our lungs, our organs, our heart and our brains) correctly. Yoga teaches all of this. Yoga teaches us to learn from ourselves the finer features of our bodies, our minds, and our emotions and our deeper motivations.

The practice of yoga includes a much wider variety of activities than is normally thought. asanas, meditation, chanting, singing, mantra, concentration, dancing, breathing, living with awareness…. it’s scientific, energetic, spiritual, practical, humanitarian, devotional, and, surprisingly after all I’ve said, very simple. It encompasses all aspects of life. No matter what your personality type or natural inclination, there’s a place in yoga for everyone.

Why yoga?

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Yoga is a complete system. I’m sure it’s not the only complete system, but in it’s ability to integrate other systems it really is a complete system. What more do I need? Every aspect of myself can be made healthier thru yoga: physical emotional, mental, respiratory, pranic body, spiritual…..

Yoga is also very inexpensive. I’m certainly not talking about the $15/class variety of yoga at your local studio. I’m talking about the living and breathing yoga we do in our own bedrooms and living rooms and everyday life. Become a witness. Take a few minutes every day to practice being a witness so that you make it a habit to do always. A few classes to get yourself started is good, some good book can be helpful. The classics like Patanjali’s sutra or the Bhagavad Gita are good. They will both be likely to change your idea of what yoga really is. I was certainly confused at first, but now it all makes perfect sense; these books describe what yoga really is and how to get there. You’ll notice that neither of them suggest going to your local yoga studio three times a week. What they do say is to meditate, meditate, meditate.

Yes, meditation is yoga. What the Buddha teaches is is yoga! What Christ teaches is yoga! What pain and suffering and sympathy teach you is yoga! Tantra, chanting, prostration, pranayama, prayer, and awareness will all bring you to yoga.

Yoga has become another outlet for fitness junkies. Most yoga classes are rajas at best. It’s unsettling to see so many tamasic teachers, but they’re there promising short cuts and leading the masses. The peace and relaxation and utter tranquility of yoga just isn’t there in the cities anymore.

But yoga, my yoga is still sublime. This is why yoga! I’ve made it my own. I love following my own rhythm, sometimes disciplining myself while at other times letting it all slid. I do what I want, I get what I need. Sometimes focusing on pasture, other times focusing on breath. And it costs me nothing. I need nothing. Just the will to do yoga; the will to learn about myself; witness the good with the bad.