Finding Guru

The slow re-read of the Bhagwad Gita has been a different experience. It’s been a couple of months since I started and I’ve just arrived at Chapter 4. The opening lines were familiar as I was given these to include in a presentation on yoga about a year ago. In that context, it was about the origin and evolution of yoga. Today, it was interesting to see it in the context of the unbroken lineage from guru to shishya. It implies transfer of the light of experiential wisdom from guru to devoted student.

It is interesting to see how the Sun is the first recipient of this timeless wisdom and continues to fulfill it’s dharma, perhaps that explains the potency of the Gayatri mantra. His son, Manu is given this knowledge and he passes it on to the Raja Rishis, Kings who were also Seers. It percolated to the Sages and in keeping with the cycle of evolution and devolution, wound up being lost. Lord Krishna then goes on to say that he would reveal the same ancient secret to his friend and devotee, Arjuna. I found a mirror in the terms ‘friend’ and ‘devotee’ when Geetaji addresses functions at the Institute. Invariably she says, friends and fellow practitioners of yoga. There’s love and compassion, not the sickly sweet variety but the simple love of a mother who may appear stern. Offerings of Guruji’s teachings in the spirit of yajna, the technique of Karma yoga, Lord Krishna speaks about in the previous chapter.

And coincidence or not, something I read later in the day was from an obscure book I found, a translation of inspired poetry by Sri Muruganar as an offering to his guru, Ramana Maharishi.

I find it hard to ask things to anyone and often feel like a quizzical question mark. So, I read and let the words simmer. Sometimes, connections pop up but I wonder if it’s just an overactive imagination. At other times, I feel I’m on track and it gets validated when I hear or read something that reiterated what seemed to be just my interpretation.

Swami Chinmayananda says, “Therefore, a study of the scriptures by one’s own self is apt to create misunderstanding in the mind of the student rather than a right appreciation of it.”

I ask, where does one find a guru today? We seek in the words the masters left behind but the light can only come from their lotus feet…

Hari Om

Death and all his friends…

Both my father and father-in-law passed away in July a few years ago. As per the Hindu calendar, my dad’s death anniversary falls on Ashadh Ekadashi, an auspicious day that marks the beginning of a 4 month period of increased sadhana. It’s also the period when Ram and his brother paused in their search for Sita and made the acquaintance of the vanaras. 

Death is not a topic discussed freely, neither do we spend time contemplating it. Yet, savasana is where the magic happens after an honest practice. Savasana is where we surrender our flaws, our handicaps and become recipients of divine grace. 

Savasana is where the elements begin to express themselves in the walls of the nostrils and the moist, warm breath. The visual imagery that it conjures is one of the heat of the cosmic energy transforming the water element to expel itself as air only to merge in the vast consciousness of the universe. All this through the earthlike equipment of the body. A poor description of a tiny and expansive sensation. Perhaps, it is an overactive imagination, perhaps it is real. All I know is that the thought sprang up and asked to be expressed. And then, there is that cue that came in the prashnayantra email, “In ancient Indian thought, there is great attention to language and grammar, and almost no distinction is drawn between the word and the object denoted – they are two manifestations of the same underlying concept, as it were. Secondly, a direct correlation is recognised between language and mind-making. The given statement is an example of how delving deeper on language and grammar helps cultivate our understanding.” Anyways, that’s an ongoing exploration. 


I’ve been fascinated with the elements for a while now but recently came across a signpost in Guruji’s interpretation of Sutra 2:25. And somehow it makes me sit up and relook at the direction of my enquiry. As I understand it today, exploring the elements and the gunas is just about scratching the surface of a first step! The more time that passes, the more ignorance comes up to the surface. A welcome reminder to remain ever a student.

I’ve gone through the Sutras in the order that they are written, the way they are linked and also randomly. Lately, I’ve started reading it backwards and alongside an other commentary. The striking difference is the experiential sense of Guruji’s interpretation versus the more scholarly version of Edwin Bryant. It is interesting to get a different perspective and reading both backwards is like seeing the world in Sirsasana, the drishti changes.

Hari Om

Light

Sometimes it feels unreal, coming out of savasana. I roll the mat, get out of the room and am swept into the current of the day. The mat, though, is a different experience. Within its boundaries, there is space and time. Today’s thought stayed with me for most of the day.


ज्योतिषामपि तज्ज्योतिस्तमस: परमुच्यते।

ज्ञानं ज्ञेयं ज्ञानगम्यं हृदि सर्वस्य विष्ठितम् ।।१८।।

That (BRAHMAN), the Light-of-all lights, is said to be beyond darkness; (It is) Knowledge, the Object-of-Knowledge, seated in the hearts of all, to be reached by Knowledge.

Translation by Swami Chinmayananda 

Swamiji begins his commentary on this shloka by saying- “Brahman, the illuminator in all, is the One Consciousness by which everything is known intellectually, realized intuitively, and experienced spiritually.” The different touch points in this short verse paint the entire cosmos within and without. As always, the clarity and beauty of the words of masters never fails to fill me with awe.

The Gayatri mantra is an invocation to the same illuminator who resides within. In his commentary, Sri Shankaracharya speaks about meditating on the source of illumination of the Sun. His brief explanation provides many facets for contemplation on the one light that lights all. It is no coincidence that we speak of the realized ones as enlightened or illumined. Guruji’s books also use Light in their titles…

All light is one

न तत्र सूर्यो भाति न चन्द्रतारकं नेमा विध्युतो भान्ति कुतोऽयमग्नि:।

तमेव भान्तमनुभाति सर्वं तस्य भासा सर्वमिदं विभाति ।।१४।।

The sacred texts and commentaries take their time to seep in- Intellectually, Intuitively and Spiritually. Yogasana is also like that. The head and the heart, culminating in the union of both to transcend. 

Hari Om

 

Experiencing…

After much dilly dallying, I got ropes fitted at home, finally. I used to get neck tractions in class a couple of years ago and that’s when I first thought of fixing a set at home. But it felt presumptuous so I let it sort of simmer on the back burner. Last year, I decided to stick to what was taught in class and that was mostly without props, except a brick or bolster at most. I see the good sense in learning asanas the classical way. It is harder but makes me less lazy. Now I wish to explore and experiment, find out for myself. I did have a moment of doubt if I was being too ambitious in my sadhana but the teachings are strong and as long as I remain a student, I will be guided. Of that, I am sure.

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Yesterday, I found myself trying out Adho Mukha Svanasana using the rope at varying distances of the leg and it was different. Since I was short on time, I just noticed the sensation but that is something I can experiment with. Mental note – keep a notebook handy.
The year at RIMYI is over and the dismay of no class for 4 weeks has reduced. Now it is thinking of what and how to build a regular practice in the break so that I go back prepared. It was easier when there was a weekly dose of inspiration from class. While independent sequences are a good way to keep it interesting, I find myself sticking to one category and neglecting the others or not working on all equally. So, one option is to go through the sequence for the weeks and apply it to the days. Alternatively, fix on one category for each day of the week. And one basic pose to explore every week like tadasana, dandasana etc.
While on a walk early this morning, I found myself thinking about knowledge and it’s availability. The Internet has made us lazy about learning since there is an overload of information on anything under the sun. A short while on wikipedia can make one an expert on the subject. In contrast to classical learning where knowledge was experiential. The texts were memorised, meanings of the words and their construction subjective and the underlying essence subtle. The shlokas and Sutras are deceptively simple looking and frequently dip into nature to state an idea.  Sort of hidden in the open so that it’s mysteries are not casually or irreverently thrown about.
The Gayatri mantra is one that I stop to think about everyday before japa and on the surface it seems an invocation to the Sun but as I read the literal meanings of each of the words and a commentary on it attributed to Adi Shankaracharya, it is increasingly becoming evident that this is a very potent and subtle mantra. And my understanding is very crude and rudimentary. The sheer finesse and elegance of thought and expression of the ancient seers gives me goosebumps. Some sections are bursting with joy and the text carries me in the spirit of that bliss. If just reading at a very superficial level makes me feel like this, I cannot even begin to imagine what the experience would be. There are a lot of small changes that I notice but I don’t know if I am imagining it. It seems impossible to my mind, to my rational self so I let it be. But, perhaps it may really be as I sense it. Then, yet again, how can it be? My journey is but a few steps in the making, I have barely begun.

Hari Om