Satyam, Tapas, Svadhyaya

I woke up in a rebellious state of mind, not wanting to practise. And then decided to continue reading the Taittiriya Upanishad. It was the best thing I could have done. What an uplifting read! It never fails to inspire, these ancient texts. Such conciseness, poetry and power, almost as though just the shapes and sounds of their syllables can change something inside. Although I’ve been reading just little portions, one section or theme at a time, today, I found myself reading more than usual.

One of the interesting things amongst many others in today’s reading was from Section 9 in the first chapter. A blue print for living as a continuum of study, practice and passing on. I found parallels in the study, practice and passing on of my understanding. In an earlier section, there is a fervent desire for material prosperity and the desire for students. I felt that the implied sense was that as long as material needs were met, the dissemination of knowledge to deserving students could occur. In the guru-shishya parampara, there were no fees, only a guru dakshina on the completion of one’s education. That has a lot of resonance in my beliefs too.

Since the passage was very beautiful and a reminder, I think I will write it down here too.

The practice of what is right and proper (ritam), as fixed by the scriptural texts, is to be done along with reading the texts oneself and propagating the truths of the same.

‘Truth’ (satyam), meaning practising in life what is understood to be right and proper, is to be pursued along with regular studies and preaching.

Penance (tapah), study (svadhyaya) and preaching (pravachane);

Control of the senses (dama), study and preaching;

tranquility (shama), study and preaching;

the ‘maintenance of fire (agneya)’, study and preaching;

offering of oblations in fire sacrifice (agnihotram), study and preaching of the Vedas;

serving the guest (athithayaha), study and preaching;

the performance of duties towards man (maanusham), study and preaching;

duties towards children (prajaha), study and preaching of the vedas;

procreation (prajanah), study and preaching;

propagation of the race (prajahitih), study and preaching;

all these things are to be practised sincerely.

Satyavaca, son of Rathitara, holds that truth (satyam) alone is to be strictly practised. Taponitys, son of Purusista declares that penance (tapas) alone is to be practised. Naka, son od Mudgaa, holds the view that the study and preaching of the Vedas (svadhyaya) alone is to be practised; that verily, is penance; aye that is penance.

The translations are a bit archaic but the Sanskrit is more inclusive and can accommodate the realities of the times that we live in. Study and preaching are svadhyaya and pravachane and can be also interpreted as self study and expression or interpretation. Seen in the context of the origin of the name of the Upanishad, Taittiriya, it is apt as the dissemination of experienced knowledge. What a beautiful guidebook for educationists! The image in the post is the story of how this Upanishad got its name.

IMG_20200513_084706__01
Image from the commentary on the Taittiriya Upanishad by Swami Chinmayananda

Some of the 12 steps could be interpreted differently in the changed contexts of human behaviour and lives today. Like procreation and propagation of the race. The choice to not have children etc. also can be seen in the light of the sheer need for a reduction in the burden on the planet. In the evolution of humankind, the reasons for procreation turned to be economical rather than evolutionary and hence this changed approach today is perhaps essential for balance. The 12 indications are good cues for contemplation in how they may be interpreted in our lives now.

This Upanishad was the very first one I read and attempted to study a few years back and it made a huge impression on me then. Subsequently, I have dipped into it off and on but this current revisiting is like reading it all over again with eyes wide open in wonder.

And also the next section which is such a song of joy and freedom!

‘I am the stimulator in the tree of universe. My fame (glory) is high as the peak of the mountains. High and pure am I like the essence in the sun; I am the power and the wealth, effulgent with intuition. Intelligent, imperishable and undecaying am I’- this is the sacred recitation of Trishanku after he realized the Truth.

And part of the commentary- Trishanku rightly declares that to know ourselves, to complete our rediscovery, to realize our divine nature, to live as God in ourselves, is the only harbour wherein the frail mind shall no more be exposed to the storms of contentions and the surging waves of desires for wealth or temptations for power.

Much of my writing is really an endeavour to ‘rediscover’ not ‘discover’, what is usually referred to as cleaning the mirror. This just may end up going up on my wall as a constant reminder on how to live a full life of service.

My heart feels lighter for having read this today and the encouragement to live exalted is just what this tired spirit needed.

Time in Yoga

The other day, I was prone in class and from where I lay I could see different setups and a whole lot of focused faces. In a flash, there was a thought of time being measured, not in minutes or seconds but experience. It gallops in pleasure and drags its feet in times of sorrow. In the experience of asana, there is no room for sequential time, only experiential time. It’s the ‘atha‘ from the first sutra, the state of preparedness which opens the possibility of freedom from the limitations of time, space and causality.

The medical class is always fascinating to watch. Bodies of all ages and various levels of ability are helped, often quite vigorously. I watch backs mostly and see how all of our therapy revolves around the spine. Personally, I’ve found relief after a change in sequence and a marked difference in the body between two sessions.

It is extremely hard to surrender the desire for an active practice and experience the quietness of a long passive and recuperative one. There is no other way. Outside of class, the body holds its stresses in different parts and I’m learning to let go as soon as awareness appears. Sometimes all that is required is to step out of my own way.

All bodies age and I see senior practitioners with their struggles too. The change in the body’s topography and the disturbances of life’s circumstances erode its physical expression. I see it in my existence too, the need for reading glasses and a slowing down. The body is a decaying instrument and will lose its capacity over time. I suppose one can only do the necessary sadhana to look after it to keep the heart and mind in fit condition for yog. That agility and endurance calls for a different practice.

Does a lack of complicated poses or a rigorous sequence make it any less of sadhana? My head says no but the heart is only just about accepting its truth. Asana is one petal, the others are oceans in themselves.

My recent exploration has been the Isavasya Upanishad and as always, I remain enthralled by the sheer poetry and simplicity of age old words. All of the Upanishads leave me with a sense of upliftment despite not really understanding it. Just the words bring much joy and I cannot begin to imagine how much more unpacking its essence would bring. But then again I suppose then it wouldn’t matter, there would be no sense of separation. It is a matter of many lifetimes before any of that becomes even remotely possible. For now, I listen to its music, enthralled.

One of the things that jumped out was the need for balance, an echo of abhyasa and vairagyam. It is an ongoing experimentation for me to learn to temper a tendency for solitude with a healthy sense of community. It is part of the fabric of being in the householders stage and any tilt towards one extremity is self defeating. Easier said than done but try, I must.

In gratitude to all my teachers, mortal and eternal

Srishti-Sthithi-Laya

The branch droops low

Heavy with Gulmohurs

Their reds bursting

In fiery passion

The old woman

Passes by

Stooped in age

Burnt in grey

The koels sing

Songs of mangoes

As they invade

Summer days

The old man

Twitches and turns

Blinks and drools

Spitting gibberish

A leaf dies

Even as one births

And another yellows

Srishti-Sthithi-Laya

Flames of wonder

The seven flickering tongues of flames are kāli (the black one), karālī (the terrific one), manojavā ( the swift -as-mind one), sulohitā (the deep red one), sudhūmra-varna (the smoke coloured one), sphulinginī (the sparkling) and viśvaruchi, (the bright, all shining- variegated one).

⁃ Translation by Swami Chinmayananda

Image from the commentary by Swami Chinmayananda on Mundakopanishad

The translation above is of the 4th mantra in the 2nd section of the Mundakopanishad. Since I read it in the morning, I have been mesmerized by the sounds of the Sanskrit names. Imagine the level of penetration to classify flames into distinctive categories and this is not even getting into the esoteric symbolism implicit in the lines. It is tantalizing in its assured cadences which say no more. I see flashes of mind states and senses, time and space, secret laws that propel the existence of the universe and so on. It’s been an awe inspiring verse and I am grateful that we have access to these words even if they are beyond our understanding.

Hari Om

a pause…

This year has hurtled at breakneck speed with many interesting experiences. It feels like an important period which will reveal it’s secrets only at some later time. Whilst in the middle of dealing with life, all I can see is painful or pleasurable instances. In many ways, I lost all that I had worked towards and in others, I gained a whole lot of new. I lost running and have been steadily losing asana to the knee while I gained a new lease on a childhood dream. And yet, as I type this post, I wonder…

It feels a little strange to type on my laptop after using my little hand phone for almost all of my communication. Except for large excel files and films, I rarely opened up the big screen. The note feature on my phone was probably the most used as I put down class notes, random ramblings besides posts for Instagram. Somehow that tiny screen allowed my thoughts to flow in a way a large screen never permitted. Now that the phone has died on me, I’ve been enjoying the luxury of time and the freedom to be in hermit mode. I would have to get myself a new one but I’m beginning to wonder if I should…

The knee is a chronic condition now and after a few rounds of the doctor and physiotherapists, I decided to do as I thought right. In all my interactions with the medical folks, they had thoughts and diagnoses and it struck me that even they figure out stuff by trial and error. In all this, I trust yoga since there is firsthand experience of relief from cervical spondylosis. Ultimately, it is nature who heals. I’m grateful to a fellow student who nudged me to speak to my teacher about a solution for my problem rather than just working around with modifications. I’m looking forward to a solution to this bump in the road. I really miss the rejuvenation of a well earned savasana. Somehow, it doesn’t feel the same without a solid asana practice.

A complete break of a week actually saw the knee feeling happier so maybe complete rest is what it requires but the practice is really for my mind and heart. It clears my head and opens my heart in a way nothing else does. I did play around with different kinds of sequences and found that backbends did well for the knee too. It got me thinking about going to the root of a problem. Inevitably, everything in our physical existence is tied to the spine and that is where the answers lie. I feel more than a little out of practice and a bit fallen out of grace as far as the mat is concerned. Perhaps the upcoming sabbatical will prove to be a time to regenerate.

Today’s muse was the third section from the Shiksha valli of the Taittriya Upanishad and it was again a reinforcement of the importance of the purusharthas of our human existence. Dharma, Artha, Kama and Moksha. There is no fast forwarding to moksha and the logic of dividing life into these phases is impeccable, like the systematic development of learning asanas. A householder’s life need not be one of bondage, it is an opportunity to be of service in many ways as I am beginning to see. I find immense joy in passing on what I have learned as well as giving freely and fully which was not possible in my twenties or thirties. Hopefully by the time, my responsibilities are fulfilled, I may be able to embrace the next ashramas with grace and happiness.

Hari Om

 

स्वाध्यायादिष्टदेवतासंप्रयोग:।।४४।।

It is hard to let go, really let go. Running was a crutch in many ways. Sure, it made me feel good, it made me feel strong, it made me push beyond what I thought I was capable. Yet, at the core of it is deep seated ahamkara. Pride in one’s effort and the result. The extent of that is apparent when one of my wishes is to be a world class athlete in my next life! Of course, I want to be a devout yoga sadhaka as well but the first instinct is a desire for that which satisfies the ego.

The last few days have been difficult. Pain and its associated mental turmoil. Yesterday, I decided to just stop and let go. Last night as I lay down to sleep with a bolster beneath my knees, it struck me that all the Savasana prompts that kept cropping up lately were a prep for this period in time. My body and mind need the rejuvenation that this asana gives in such abundance. My mind had worked itself into a frenzy and predictably the body grew tense and the heart heavy. I could only see what was denied to me and not what is available. I forgot to bring a spirit of enquiry with me, forgot that pain is a teacher!

Sometimes I wish for the ease that people enjoy in congregational worship. It seems so natural when they get together to do puja, pray or sing. Recently, I was at a church for a wedding and the choir was heavenly. A mix of folks from different cultures across the country, all coming together in beautiful melody. It took me back to my days as a child when I used to be part of a choir. I’ve almost always been a loner, mostly by choice and at times because life would push me back to navigating on my own even when I would attempt being part of a group. This pattern goes way back in my history, around the  early teenage years. I suppose that’s why Eklavya appeals to me. There is something about that Nishada living wild with his guru firmly entrenched in his heart that resounds with me. Often, I think that Guruji in my heart is like how the clay likeness of Dronacharya was for the archer who was probably greater than Arjuna. Eklavya’s story is an anonymous one, hidden in the periphery of civilisation. There is much to learn from his character but that’s a separate reflection. There’s an old post sketching his story in the Mahabharata that I had written a while ago. (click to read

I think of going to a temple on certain days, like today, but then don’t because of the crowd. I prefer to go on quiet days when there is no one. I don’t know the order of worship, nor the offerings to be made. I just sit, seeing the idol until it feels like time to get up, sort of like how I come out of savasana. In my heart, I offer a full prostration but have nothing as an offering except myself. I go empty since nothing is mine. I drop in some money at the box and leave, accepting the prasad. Shivratri is one such day and I have the auspicious one in my heart. 

अचिन्त्यमव्यक्तमनन्तरूपं शिवं प्रशान्तममृतं ब्रह्मयोनिम। तथाऽऽदिमध्यान्तविहीनमेकं विभुं चिदानन्दमरूपमद्भुतम्।।६।। उमासहायं परमेश्वरं प्रभुं त्रिलोचनं नीलकण्ठं प्रशान्तम्। ध्यात्वा मुनिर्गच्छति भूतयोनिं समस्तसाक्षिं तमस: परस्तात् ।।७।। एतस्माज्जायते प्राणो मन: सर्वेन्द्रियाणि च। खं वायुर्ज्योतिराप: पृथिवी विश्वस्य धारिणी।।१५।।

 Translation from the commentary by Swami Chinmayananda

6. The unthinkable, the unmanifest, the One of endless forms, the ever auspicious, the peaceful, the immortal, the origin of the very Creator, the One without a beginning, a middle and an end, the only One, the all-pervading, the Knowledge-Bliss, the formless, and the wonderful.

7.By meditating upon Lord Parameśvara consorted by mother Umā, the highest Lord, the all-powerful, the three eyed, the blue necked and the ever tranquil, a true man of reflection reaches Him, who is the source of all the manifested world, the witness of all and the One who is beyond all darkness.

15. From Him are born the prāna (life), the mind (antahkarana), all the organs (indriyani), the sky (akāsa), the wind (vāyu), the fire (jyotih), the water (āpah) and the earth (prithivi). He is the supporter of everything.

Om Namah Shivaya

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

 

Living Water

There’s much to share and it seems too vast and interconnected to begin at a single point. The shloka or two that I read in the morning simmer through the day and spills into subsequent readings over the next few days. While it is not a linear and systematic method of learning, I find it useful in allowing intuition to do its job. New connections make themselves apparent without thirsty seeking. A different kind of abhyasa, one of being rather than doing. It feels like another cycle of learning has started yet again. 

The fascination with the panchamahabhutas continues along with watching the play of gunas within myself and around me. It takes the drama out of everyday excitement and irritation and provides a clear framework for self-study. 

Recently, I came across a rather obscure book at a friend’s home and the title was intriguing. So, I borrowed it and it has been a fascinating read so far. A smattering of some of the gems from that tiny little copy are below.

Actually, the mysteries of water are similar to those of the blood in the human body. In nature, normal functions are fulfilled by water just as blood provides many important functions for mankind.

Water in its natural state shows us how it wishes to flow, so we should follow its wishes.

Naturally moving water augments itself. It improves in quality and matures considerably. 

Water which sinks into the earth from the atmosphere will pick up salts and minerals and other substances which restore its vitality; it is enlivened by isolation from light and air. But there is also a certain  journey in both time and distance that the water must make before it becomes internally mature.

Living Water by Olof Alexandersson

It reads like the mystic shlokas and sutras and I cannot help but think of the parallels in yogic concepts. And that opens a whole new vista. 

Living Water by Olof Alexandersson

Accordingly, my practices are changing and it is a natural shift towards watching rather than just doing. It raises questions and also teaches to stay with them. Something  Schauberger says about inheritance is similar to what the Gita and the Sutras speak.

Schauberger’s Heritage

Hari Om

Stopping by a stop-watch

There is a large glass cupboard in the institute which has a few items that belonged to Guruji. The legendary stop-watch caught my attention today as I stood waiting for a friend. A piece of time ticking away for a man who defined time and space through asana. 

I knew him not but rest in the promise of the Śvetāśvatara Upanishad…

यस्य देवे परा भक्ति: यथा देवे तथा गुरौ । 

तस्यैते कथिता ह्यर्था: प्रकाशन्ते महात्मन: ।।२३।।

प्रकाशन्ते महात्मन इति ।

He who has the same supreme devotion for the Guru as for God, indeed to the great person the spoken meanings of the Upanishads become revealed.

-Translation from the book by Swami Tejomayanand

Book by Swami Tejomayananda

Tasmai Shri Guruve Namaha

Straight from the Heart

Two trips to the Institute yesterday. One for class, one for the Guru Pournima celebrations. Back bends and prostrations. Both filled my heart. 

The program began with the traditional invocation to Sage Patanjali and the Guru Brahma chant. It was followed by a beautiful dramatization of a series of conversations between 2 practitioners. Abhijata and Raya enacted the roles or rather spoke from the heart. The script was probably not necessary for them if their voices were anything to go by, almost as though everything they narrated, happened to them. Through their dialogue interspersed with some asana demonstration and video clippings, we were treated to some pearls of Guruji’s wisdom. Some things made me go “yes, I’ve felt that” and then I question if it is possible since I am so young in yoga. I too have felt the timelessness spoken about in paschimottanasana or janu sirsasana for the tiniest moments but then I am still very raw, so is it real? It doesn’t matter.

There was a quote by Guruji in the presentation that has stayed in my head since yesterday, “Does the flower fall from the tree of its own free will or does the tree abandon it?” 

Little K’s sketch on the program. I love the stick people doing asanas…

Geetaji released the latest Yoga Rahasya and spoke a few words at the end, reminding us all to preserve what Guruji has given us.

commemorating 50 years of Light on Yoga

The format of a dialogue between 2 practitioners was very interesting and got me thinking about my peers. Perhaps it would be nice to discuss the subject to find a different perspective. However, that is very limited since I wait for someone else to initiate a conversation. It’s nice when it happens but I’m equally content staying in silence. Perhaps, it is because I get my sense of community and fellowship through this blog. I receive encouragement and experience, unconditionally shared, that nudges me to explore in ways I don’t usually do. Online pilgrims on the same journey…

I wonder who did Guruji share with? Of course, millions of people through his books and teachings but that happened much later in his life. As a beginner, who did he share with? Today’s reading from Gaudapada’s Karika on the Mandukya Upanishad (commentary by Swami Chinmayananda) had a very beautiful line and I found my answer.

अस्पर्शयोगो वै नाम सर्वसत्त्वसुखो हितः।

अविवादो ऽ विरुद्वश्च देशितस्तं नमाम्यहम् ।।२।।

“I salute that yoga of detachment which is called asparsha, (lit. no touch, in other words, having no relationship with anything, at any time), which is taught through scriptures, which promotes the happiness of all, which is conducive to the well-being of all, which is beyond all disputes and which is at once free from strife and contradiction.”

The commentary by Swamiji states- In the case of Asparsha yoga, it being mainly the inward development of the individual, accomplished in the secret caves of the heart, it is never painful to others and it is ever good for the individual concerned.

The beauty of Guruji’s sadhana is the hope it gave and continues to give. Yoga as taught by him emphasised on correct alignment and is seen as rigid and harsh by some. But at the core of it is compassion. The language of the heart. 

Guruji was not a man, he was a phenomenon. Same with Swami Chinmayananda who made the great scriptures accessible to the modern day seeker.

Offering my humblest pranaams to Guruji and Swamiji who guide my path.

Hari Om