Hope everyone is having a blast as the pandemic is winding up and folks heading towards some normalcy!
This post sort off, ties into one of my previous post Shifting perspective. In this post I am going to share with you my experience and enrichment from a book on teachings of a Yoga master Mr. BKS Iyengar. It has been my lived philosophy “My body is a temple that houses my soul and my soul is the seat of the divine mother”. Hence one aspect of bhakti to me is to be respectful of my physical body, by keeping it healthy and optimally functioning at all times.
Here is what the yoga Guru Mr. BKS Iyenger says, “It is through the body that everything comes to mind. It is through and with your body that you have to reach realization of being a spark of divinity. How can we neglect the temple of the spirit.”
As an extension to the above philosophy, I would even go one step further and say. This is true for anyone and everyone. Body with a physical disability is not an exception to this rule. Perceived physical disability does not equate to a disability is spirit. This definitely does not mean size xyz of the clothes. Generally speaking physical beauty is an attribute of a healthy body. A physically beautiful body may not necessarily be healthy or optimally efficient.
Hence next time you look at someone with a physical disability or a body image that does not conform to conventional definition of beauty. It is an opportunity presenting to yourself to break the shackles of conditioning and correct your body image bias. Go on and perform a random act of kindness to yourself and to other members of the community. By creating a community that is inclusive. For a change along with feeding people or birds also feed some souls. This to me is another aspect of bhakti, to acknowledge all beings that are created by the divine as perfect and that they are there to serve different purposes. Hence inclusive community is the divine mandate. Does mother divine create something that is not perfect or incomplete? Dumb question Navjot! It is a limitation of your own vision and intellect.
Here is what the yoga master says about Philosophy, “People speak about philosophy because they have read books. Philosophy is a way of living not something to study.” I guess what he is implying is that value of philosophy is in applying it to your life, to reap benefit from it. Rather than confining it to chat rooms, books and discussions to look good. So go on live your philosophy and make yourself and your community happy.
Recently, I came across a book that had been lying around in my house for about at least a few years. This book made its way into our house with a bunch of books my brother ordered for himself. This book was just a part of the package deal that he ordered from amazon. This book was really not the one he ordered but just a part of the package. It sat in that package until…… He found some time in the lock downs to actually order a book case and put it together. After that he arranged these books on the book case. I love books and out of my curiosity I browsed through the book case. This book caught my attention “Sparks of Divinity” The teachings of BKS Iyengar, compiled by Noelle Perez-Christiaens. This book is written by one of his pupils Noelle, who is French and shares a really close bond with him as a student. I just opened a page to get a feel of the book and the first page that I opened had this.
It talks about the advice that BKS Iyengar received from his Guru on how to receive a spiritual experience during his yog Sadhna. Once as the yoga master was in Shavasana (Corpse pose). He had a spiritual experience. He immediately called his guru Guru Krishnamacharya and asked for direction on how to accept this. Here’s the essence of, what he received as learning. It good to experience and enjoy the experience while it lasts but do not try to seek it out. Otherwise you are going away from your path.
Immediately, I could resonate with this advice and I brought the book upstairs to room and sat it on my night stand. Whoa! What a find I said to myself! Tiny little someone like me chanced upon some universal wisdom. Damn! What a shame, the book sat in the package for some years until I discovered it now. It’s a totally fascinating book, I found it hard to put it down. I sat late into the night, to read it.
Here’s my reflection on his Gur’s advice. I found that initially when I came across a spiritual experience. I found myself seeking the same experience and then it wasn’t going to happen because I was not focused on the exercise itself but my body was focused on reliving the experience. Hence in return I got nothing! Therefore I kept redirecting myself to the actual exercise of chanting and deconditioning my body to forget the experience. At some point this wisdom dawned on me that charm lies in exploring the exercise with sincerity and not on the experience.
The spiritual exercise i.e. meditation or yoga is like a train that will take you to your destination and the experiences are the landscape that you can see when you look out of the window. Efforts directed at reliving the experience takes you into the past each time it is attempted. You keep going back and forth without making actual progress. If you get off the train and start living in the moment, you have missed the train that was going to take you to your destination. So enjoy the moment that the landscape outside offers you, but stay situated in your spiritual exercise! In his book Swamiji does not talk about any experience just stays focused on the exercise. Only thing he keeps repeating is just keep going regardless of what comes and goes. Don’t get off the train, keep chugging folks!!!! I think it is the most valuable advice.
I believe, every experience is a spiritual experience on a spiritual journey. However some experiences become milestones on a spiritual journey as they are impactful and herald some transformation in life. Milestone is a milestone, it is not the destination. Returning to the milestone that has already passed, is wasting time and energy.
Every spiritual seeker is unique and their journey is unique and hence their experience is unique. Spiritual journey is a solo event. Hence no one can describe a spiritual journey for someone else.
Before I found this book, I was searching for another book that we grew up with and it found its place on my father’s book shelf. I was searching this book to learn the breathing techniques during meditation. To call it a book is an understatement, it was a complete text book of yoga. Hath Yoga by Patanjali. It was the original text, one of his south Indian friends had gifted it to my father. Unfortunately, when the book was around me I never looked at it……, it got lost, when my family moved to Canada……..
Before starting let’s understand, what is Yoga? Modified gymnastics that is believed to cure some ailment and promote fitness. Answer is yes maybe, in the most contexts the way it is practiced commercially.
My understanding of hath yoga is a practice of body movements and postures that compel the body to forget self-preservation and surrender to achieve that perfect posture to achieve oneness with the divine. While posture is the exercise and concentration in perfecting the posture, makes one forget the physical surrounding and dwell in the spirit in Hath yoga. Apparently in Tantra yoga concentration in perfecting the chant and its vibrations, makes one forget the body and dwell in the spirit. In my experience, it does take the body into that perfect alignment and harmony, where it maintains its stance effortlessly. Probably the only movement is the belly breathing.
“Yog” is this oneness with the divine and “Guru” is the one who facilitates this yog. The Yoga master says “Realization is oneness and not unification. It is unity, dissolved duality, fusion, and nonduality.” I understand this as, Oneness is not achieved by two different entities uniting (Physical body and the spirit). But this oneness is experienced, when one entity the physical body dissolves (It cannot be perceived, it is undermined) and what remains is the spirit that is in harmony with the divine, only that is perceptible.
The Physical body cannot be undermined or dissolved by ignoring it but by conquering it, there is a huge difference in the two. “Attainment comes when body is conquered and not forgotten.” Little pearl of wisdom from the master.
There are different paths to this “yog”, it could be Hath yoga, or it could be Tantra yoga or other forms of yoga, I think there are nine (It is beyond the limits of this article to go down that lane, I know that Swamiji explained this once). All these yoga’s are not mutually exclusive they are interdependent and there are areas of overlap. I think it was this overlap that helped me see some sense in what this yoga master was teaching. Apparently, the difference between Hath yoga and Tantra yoga is that in Hath yoga the material desires are controlled from the step one. In Tantra Yoga there is an absolute freedom to our material desire so that they can be transcended.
It helped me understand, my style of meditation and whether it was working or not. After this I returned to Swamiji’s book (A Million thoughts) to the section on Concentrative meditation. This time this section offered a new layer of understanding to me compared to when I read it first time. Swamiji, I understood what Dhoomrlochan Vadh means. It means killing the demon of haze, that clouds the consciousness and block the vision from identifying the truth! Boy! This makes sense now.
Interestingly, this book mentions something I was experiencing. It is the difference in the energy levels in the two sides of the body. Mr. Iyenger explains this nicely quoting him “Everyone has a side which is better than the other. Balance between Ha, the right and Tha the left is Yoga. Perfect harmony means perfect control and deep research; that is Yoga.
I lived this experience, I tried to practice some stretches and some exercises, not just yoga. The way Mr. Iyengar describes. The body and the brain both active, with concentration and active brain along with active body doing the exercise. The result was amazing, I improved my personal best times for wall sit, plank and side plank by almost double. These times revert back to lower numbers if I am not concentrating!!! It is fascinating.
Lord! Too many heavy duty words…….. Let’s take a break, will come back to it next time. Lots of food to chew on! Happy contemplation folks……….
I will keep this going, if you like it keep coming back! Adios!