Monday, March 7, 2011

Even if the Exalted Becon

“ Even if the exalted beckon, one must avoid attachment to pride or suffering will recur.”
PYS III.52 (or 51 depending upon your translation)

According to Patanjali, as one continues to practice, they develop certain powers: levitation, clairvoyance, clairaudience, the ability to be in two places at once, the ability to read minds, etc.  This verse appears as a warning after the description of those powers.

According to Vyasa, there are 4 types of yogis:
  1. The novice that is practicing and just beginning to learn.
  2. Those who have achieved some level of success and are gaining these powers
  3. Those who have mastered the elements and the senses, but still practice
  4. Those who have gone beyond practice and who are approaching liberation

The merits and powers that yogis develop attract a lot of attention by celestial beings who are jealous of the yogi and desire their power for themselves.  They may tempt the yogi with kingdoms, planets, more powers, etc. in an effort to knock the yogi back down a few pegs.  Of the 4 types, the second are the most vulnerable. No one cares much for the novice, and the 3rd and 4th stage yogis have moved beyond corruption.  Those who are seeing results but have not yet sublimated the ego are easily tempted.  

I am not going to discount the possibility of celestial beings seducing and destroying yogis, but let’s apply this to a little more tangible scenario.

As we progress in our practice, things tend to happen.  Positive things.  We gain increase flexibility, strength, maybe more shapely abs or backside, maybe less stress.  Our family, friends, and peers may identify us as ‘yogis.’  If we teach, we may see an increase in students (or not, which also can apply here) who are looking to us as experts.

We must be vigilant and constantly remind ourselves of the goal of yoga: the cessation of the fluctuations of the mind (PYS I.2), and that our yogic actions are to remove the causes of suffering ( PYS II.2).  When we become attached to our actions, even our yoga practice can become a cause of suffering. We may not be able to practice in the way we have grown accustomed to due to age, illness, or injury.  A new younger/hipper/better looking/stronger teach may start to take your students.  Rather than adjust to where we are now, we become angry, resentful, jealous, depressed.  Now we are back at square one of our practice.

We have to think about why we are doing the practice we are doing.  The metric of practice is not how far you can bend, your blood pressure number or number of students in class, it is when you can honestly say “I am doing this because it needs to be done,” regardless of the circumstances, mood, or possibility of reward. 
“Practice, and all is coming.”  (Sri K. Pattabhi Jois) means that we do our practice when times are good and when times are bad.  We do our practice whether there is anyone to give praise or offer correction, or if we are all alone in the dark at 5 am.  We do our practice when on the mat, at the office, in the car. 

Practice is both the means and the goal. 

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