Mid to late afternoon, after tea, after reading Tagore. I lie down on the couch and curl up like a comma. Not to sleep, but to go quietly inside and think things through.
Today, I am considering the collision of world-views.
A few blog posts back I considered this distance that separates in the air you breathe: the inevitability of the separation that results from being coiled into our cultural cocoons.
The divide is fractal, existing not only on the macro level of culture, but on the micro level of any two individuals. We are all blind, in varying degrees, to the ground upon which we stand. We look out into the world, thinking that we see objectively. But the really real is veiled by the innumerable beliefs we hold about it.
What to do, then? Just give up and sink into the false conviction that only my world-view is real?
It occurs to me that attempting to bridge the gap is why we’re here. Here, now, in apparent isolation from everything else. Our attempts to find connection may often be clumsy and miss the mark. But we can’t give up the project.
This conundrum reminds me of the title of one of Tagore’s novels: Yogayog. That is, yoga + ayoga. Yoga – connection, and its opposite – ayoga – separation. The former is the ultimate reality that underlies everything. The latter is the relative reality in which we spend most of our time.
May we support each other in the attempt to bridge the gap and find connection. The survival of everything depends upon this.
Samputa, in the exquisite gestural language of Bharatanatyam, is one of the double hand gestures. The right and left hands are cupped together to create a container. A little treasure box.
I find the image apt for many of the traditional Sanskrit names given to the poses in Yogāsana. For example, Vīrabhadrāsanaencodes the whole story of the death of Lord Śiva’s beloved wife Satī. Overcome with grief and rage, Śiva rips out one of His dreadlocks, throws it to the ground, and the fearsome Vīrabhadra arises, ready to avenge Satī’s death.
Investigation into the stories behind the names of the poses can take our practice of yogāsana to another level. Taking Vīrabhadrāsana – literally “Blessed Hero” – again as an example, how might this familiar pose transform if we allow ourselves to embody the dharmic or righteous rage of this avenger? What does it mean to take dharmic action in the world?
The sadhana of yogāsana is a treasure box freely bequeathed to us from the rich culture of India, its birthplace. Do we have the courage to open it up and investigate what lies within?
On this day, the 72nd celebration of the Republic of India, I offer my heartfelt thanks to the land of Bharat for the priceless treasure of yogāsana!
I have been studying some verses from the Taittiriya Upanishad with my teacher, Marcia Solomon. Each week we chant a few lines, call response, to verify pronunciation, and then look at the meaning. I was struck when we came to I.17 at the repetition of svādhyāyapravacane ca: it is repeated no less than 13 times!
This must be important.
Svādhyāyatranslates as “self-study” and might be interpreted as “independent study” or “a study of the self” – or both. Pravacane is “instructing / teaching”. (Ca = “and”)
In my retirement from the profession of teaching in the secondary school system I find myself with time to pursue independent study of topics related to the path of yoga: āsana, Sanskrit, vedic chanting, anatomy… and I have noted a tendency to become quite involved in these pursuits, to the point that I find myself sometimes in danger of forgetting to share the fruits of my investigations with others.
Teaching is the perfect complement to independent study. Teaching is not just an option – it is a responsibility. Teaching connects us with the world. We all play the roles of both student and teacher as the context in which we find ourselves shifts.
The sacred connection fostered in the exchange between teacher and student is what allows us to evolve and connect with our higher nature.