Monday, March 14, 2011

Practice Without Fail

I referenced part of this passage in Yoga Mala in class on Saturday.  I offer the complete passage here:

“And yet the practice of yoga still leaves us subject to doubts and misconceptions, which weaken our minds and sense organs. Consequently, we plunge ourselves into the torments of birth and death, and experience various forms of suffering without ever seeing material or spiritual prosperity.  Yet we should accept scriptural authority, as the Lord in the Bhagavad Gita has ordained: ‘Tasmat shastram pramanam te karya akarya vyavasthitau [Therefore, the sacred teaching (shastra) is your measure in determining what is to be don and what is not to be done]{XVII.24 Verse citation mine}.’  If we practice the science of yoga, which is useful to the entire human community and which yields happiness both here and hereafter—if we practice it without fail, we will then attain physical, mental, and spiritual happiness, and our minds will flood toward the Self” (Sri K. Pattabhi Jois, Yoga Mala, North Point Press. 1999. p. xxi.)

SKPJ does not define specifically how to practice the science of Yoga here.  This is very important.  Yoga Mala does prescribe a specific style of practice, but SKPJ does not say that is the only way.  This verse of the Gita is not quoted by accident.  SKPJ is pointing us to the very shastra which we should follow.  Let us keep in mind that the Mahabharata (containing the Gita) and the Ramayana comprise a very specific class of literature (they are 2 of the 4 works classified as Itihasas, "Friendly Treatises," more specifically Mahakavyas, "Epics"). "They embody all that is in the Vedas, but only in a simpler manner."(Swami Sivananda, All About Hinduism. Web Edition, 1999. p. 13).  Study of these two works is study of the concepts of the Vedas. 

The Lord in the Bhagavad Gita instructs:
“Better is one’s own duty (though) destitute of merits, than the duty of another well
performed. He who does the duty ordained by his own nature incurs no sin.” (XVIII.47)

“Whatsoever a great man does, that other men also do; whatever he sets up as the
standard, that the world follows.”(III.21)

“As the ignorant men act from attachment to action, O Bharata (Arjuna), so should the
wise act without attachment, wishing the welfare of the world!” (III.25)
 [From Swami Sivananda's Translation]

The highest act of worship, and, therefore, the greatest benefit to the Self and the rest of humanity is to continuously do your duty, fulfilling your responsibilities.  This does not mean we shut ourselves off or escape from the world around us. We cannot insulate ourselves, our families from the world.  We can, however, by fulfilling our duties regardless of great happiness, horrible disasters, the pull of the super moon, etc., set an example of strength for others to follow. 

In September of 2001, SKPJ was in NYC to install the Ganesha statue in the Broom St. Temple. (There are some clips in this video   )  He was in NYC on September 11th.  Following that horror, he gave the world a demonstration of faith: he held practice.  He set an example for others to follow.  Had he not held practice, he would have demonstrated that the science of Yoga was a trivial thing, only done when it is convenient.  This would have also set an example.

By practicing without fail (continuously and without attachment to the fruits of our labor), we are benefiting all beings.  Because if one person can do it, so can another.  And another. 

We close our practice with the Mangala Mantra to ensure that we are offering our actions as a benefit to all mankind.  If you attend my classes, I offer a copy of the Mantra for you to take with you.  In closing, please follow this link to see and hear SKPJ chanting the Mangala Mantra. 

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