Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Education: what direction does it take?

Bhagavan Sri Ramana Maharishi

After Learning all scientific theories and becoming highly educated persons in the world, then if the people do not destroy their pride and ego through Self-Inquiry, there is no use of their illusionary achievements.

The uneducated people are better than them.

The pride of acquiring Education, the desire for appreciation and fame are subject matters for discouragement.

That Education is not at all education and real knowledge.

The Education which paves the way for searching the Truth, The education which inculcates obedience in them is the superior education. It will make them humble and honest people to behave with a sense of equality towards all in the World.
Sri Ramana Maharshi

If you've made it this far you must be fascinated by the above quote. Personally, I am mostly attracted by it. Overall, I am attracted to the direction it indicates.
I am very aware from personal experience of the pride, ego and desire that Sri Ramana introduces here. My education carried me through an MBA in a very conservative school that basically taught that greed was good. At the same time I was studying Zen Buddhism at the Rochester Zen Center, so was somewhat balanced, or confused, in turns.
So, I understand that Self-Inquiry can help destroy pride and ego.
It's the obedience that I always have a hard time with! I, for various reasons, have not trusted my teachers and superiors very much. So this comes with difficulty to me. I realized that I'm more an iconoclast: one who facilitates the destruction of religious symbols, or, by extension, established dogma or conventions.
This somehow works well with Self-Inquiry. The turn is that the symbols, dogma and conventions that get destroyed are the ones I've wrongly accepted and live by. No easy task that. However, by turning my attention inward, I have found a teacher over the years that I can trust. 
Quakers call it the 'still small voice' and in Yoga it's the inner Guru. 
The Obedience, I've discovered, is to this voice.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

True face of Yoga in America

During a two week stay at Arsha Vidya Gurukulum (residential center for the study of Vedanta) I was surprised to hear the usage Yoga Shastra. It meant the science of yoga. In Raja Yoga, yoga is designed to calm the mind and make it receptive. It is an analgesic, not an end. 

The skill set for teachers of yoga in America today must keep pace with distractions that are always around, including mobile devices. The mind doesn't function differently today; it seeks out the novel and changeable as is its nature.

Yoga shastra is about finding the permanent among the impermanent in any age, in any place.

The major problem in calming students minds seems to be teachers who are themselves overly attached to Asana as a vehicle for teaching Yoga. Asana is meant to illuminate the changeable and cultivate the sense of the permanent through vichar, focused attention, and more importantly through developing Viveka, discerning awareness. The first, vichar, is a process where an individual differentiates the real from the unreal (impermanent). Viveka, called the crown-jewel of awareness, is a state of mind wherein one can operate without distraction.

It is in this state of mind that awareness of the beyond, Brahman, can be present. Brahma Vidya is what can be accessed when Yoga Shastra has done it's work.
"To be born as a (hu)man, to have longing for release (from bondage) and the association with great souls - these three are difficult to obtain."
The challenge we face is to overcome, through Yoga effort, the sanskaras. It is the process of illumination of our habitual patterns that is the goal of Yoga. To see clearly, past our likes and dislikes, in order to be prepared for the depth of our true nature.

As teachers of asana, we have our own sanskaras to contend with. And these show up in our teaching. Not only in our physical but in our conveying of values and concepts.

It takes great effort and time of practice to strip ourselves bare of habitual patterns. Until that time, we should be clear to define them. Otherwise we stand the chance that our students will replicate them.

Of course, this is beyond a 200 or 500 hour, or even two year, certification program. That's why today we have a system developing of propagating sanskaras. Where people are teaching their own habituated likes and dislikes (raga and dvesa) without proper insight.

This seems to be the true face of Yoga in America.
(for another rendition of this view by Ramesh Bjonnes click here)

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

The game of being somebody or nobody

Recently a friend posted the following quote on Facebook, which began an exchange. D and S are the other people involved in the exchange.

"The game is not about becoming somebody, it's about becoming nobody."
— Ram Dass

Me: ... and after the game is over comes the real work.

D: love this thread. i was philosophy major in college along with spanish...its totally my thing!

Me: Ah, but that's the game, D! In Yoga, and other mystical pursuits, the real work is not entertainment, a bauble of mind or projection or 'undigested introjects', but experiential. Once the somebody realizes the limitations of mind and moves towards nobody, then the opportunity arises for one to experience directly, without mediation of habitual patterns. Work.

D: ur right i still like it tho...cant lie

Me: ... not to go on and on, but that's one of the tel-tales between the game and the real work: likes and dislikes, raga and dvesa, attachment and aversion. Observing how they operate one crosses the horizon. And that's cool :)

S: I'm confused about where the "work" comes in? It seems to me that when I stop trying so hard/work and just surrender to what is, then "it" all becomes clear to me. When i relinquish my illusion of control and my effort to be "somebody", I discover I am like everything:nothing

D: right! makes sense and hard to attain. it would def take work. and wouldnt the work itself be "it? "as it shouldnt be work it should just be but be nothing. mu. idk its difficult to grasp as thats exactly what were not supposed to do -grasp. were a part of the whole and therefore nothing idk its hard....

Me: Relative terms:Work and Entertainment. One can let go and be lost in habitual patterning, like daydreaming, only performing actions still on autopilot. In this thread, it's the end of the 'game' of the independent somebody. However, what is it that's aware that it's a 'nobody?' Tricky bit here.
By following the trail of likes and dislikes one is building the process of Vichar, which is a complex meditative process that leads to another aha moment. Viveka is the state of mind that, hopefully, lasts as a result.
These are experiential states and slippery. That's why 'work' seems to come in, returning repeatedly over time to discern what is real.
All of this is laid out in various Yoga texts, but each one, each person, has to do the... 'Work!" :)

S: ahh thanks for your explanation. i'm not familiar with all these terms. i always thought of meditation as, well meditative and relaxing-this is all sounding a bit ....something other than meditative to me, always more to learn. i feel like i want to come back out of my head right now and just experience...and breathe

In closing this out, I'd like to point out that meditation is not a single practice. As S pointed out one can practice a form of meditation and be amazed that what someone else does can be called meditation!

Also, the beginning forms of meditation practice involve reducing stress of the practitioner. No practices can be helpful without a calm mind. So S, return to breathing and relax. The rest comes with practice!