Monday 19 March 2012

Hello All!
The unfolding of events related to Yoga in the U.S. in the month of February prompted me after much thought and reflection to respond as some are asking about my thoughts.

In response to recent articles in the U.S. publications, NY Times and Herald Tribune, regarding, and I paraphrase, the fall in the popularity of yoga due to the fall of some yoga "titans":

Every couple of decades or so another wake-up call comes from the yoga community at large. And I feel that is just what it is. A reminder that the practice is an internal one, between you and your inner teacher, your Sat-Guru, or your highest most intuitive teacher. It is as well, the relationship you have with your local community, with your teacher and friends who care about you and your well being and the recognition that this special tradition has been passed down for the past 5000 years. This inner teacher that Patanjali went into great detail describing in his Yoga Sutras or Yoga Darshanam has a timeless wisdom. It is here that we can trace back to the roots of yoga. This wisdom has also traveled the world since this time and yoga and hatha yoga is practiced in many forms all over the globe.

Scholars date another ancient text, the Bhagavad Gita , to the period between 200 BC and 200AD. Influences on this text came from Buddhism, Jainism and Yoga. Yoga in all these contexts refers back to Raja Yoga, the yoga of Patanjali based on the science and study of the mind and a simple beautifully written guideline on how we can live a happy life, fulfilling our spiritual potential. Our modern psychology dates all the way back to Raja Yoga. Patanjali wrote the sutras from the intellect, no mention of God is there nor even a verb. The aphorisms were put down rationally and logically, Patanjali's message being, use your intellect, be rational, be logical, don't become dependent on anything. Cultivate independence.

Note: Students, when you choose your teachers, they should know this, YOU should know this.

On Tantra

The exact time when the word tantra came to be used or when its practices were first introduced is unknown. Symbols related to fertility rituals and yoga postures go back to 3000BC. Some tantric rites are based on Vedic practices going back to 2000BC. Tantra also shows the influence of the Upanishads and the Epics. There are early references to tantrism in Hindu, Buddhist and Jain literatures, but tantric practices are older than these texts.

Tantrikas are broadly divided into various sects according to the deities they worship and their rituals. The principle sects are worshipers of Shiva, worshippers of Vishnu or of Shakti. These major groups are divided into sub-sects.

When asked whether Tantra is a form of religion or mysticism, here is the response from Sir John Woodroffe, a pioneering philosopher in this field;

.....tantra is a verifiable experience to the one who seeks; in so far as it is based upon human experience in the very act of living as a source of the amplification of consciousness.....However ephemeral life may me, everything that exists has its own positive dimension. Hence, instead of drawing away from manifested nature and its obstacles, the tantrika confronts them in a face-to-face relationship. Perfect experience results in the experience of the whole, i.e. consciousness as being and consciousness as the power to become.

Because of general ignorance regarding their real meaning, tantric rituals such as sexo-yogic practices which ought not to be confused with yoga postures have been misunderstood and distorted. Some tantric philosophical and ritualistic patterns were traditionally the possession of a few initiates who formed a close circle and who guarded the system with great care, permitting access to none but qualified aspirants.

By the beginning of the 20th century many scholars such as Woodroffe had cleared away the misconceptions that obscured the profound teachings. Tantra has highly elaborate systems of atomic theory, space-time relationship, astronomical observations, cosmology, palmistry, astrology, chemistry and alchemy.

Again from Woodroffe,
The basic tenets of tantra can be explained in either ascending or descending order. From the top, one can start at the cosmic plane, at tantra's precepts concerning the ultimate reality and come down to its notion of creation and of the objective world and finally arrive at its understanding of the human body and its properties and the psychic process which interlink man and the universe.

Conversely we may start from the tangible self and ascend in stages through man-world cosmos culminating in the nature of ultimate reality.

The Tantric Way, Art, Science Ritual
Ajot Mookerjee and Madhu Khanna
published by Thames and Hudson, New York, NY

Yoga arose in the great Upanishadic culture in a time before the concept of a 'holy personality" or any kind of personality for that matter.
It was a wisdom culture that recognized everything as Brahman and Brahman was everything. Joseph Campbell, notes from his lectures.

From this Upanishadic culture, here in the West we have managed to package yoga, trademark and put our own names on the practice to distinguish it from the others.
Doing this has created disparity rather than unity and distracted us from the ultimate union the sages encountered and transmitted to us through these teachings in a way that has truly tested time. This too shall pass. And we can always learn.

On Responsible Journalism and Readership:
I believe in addition to writing responsibly, one should also read responsibly.

Really look up where Hatha yoga came from and don't be satisfied with summaries and cursory explanations.

Consider the authorship and motive of what you currently read.

Ask questions, go to the source for clarification.

In action try to cultivate decency and responsibility and in those actions enjoy the fullness and richness of your life. Enjoy it all. Again, these words come from a timeless wisdom, Patanjali's.

In the end, it's your inner wisdom, the intuition you have cultivated through your practice that is your teacher.
Which ever way you listen and respond to your inner wisdom or truth is the right path for you. It's been distilled in the beautiful expression:
Truth is One, Paths are Many.

On Gratitude
I am still and will always be grateful that beautiful places exist all over the world and are lovingly sustained through the strongest acts of all, service and love.
I have met strong, wise and inspirational teachers there.

On Compassion
I know many fellow teachers are angry and hurting right now and I feel compassion for them and feel sorry for their suffering.

At least, thankfully, the words at the end of Bill Broad's article were these:

But perhaps — if students and teachers knew more about what Hatha can do, and what it was designed to do — they would find themselves less prone to surprise and unyogalike distress.