Sun My 8th, 2016 3:30pm, NYC
NY Gurubai’s Visit to Japan, Winter 2016
and Its Synchronization with Pranavadipa Vol. 17:
Practice Concretely In Daily Life Using Yama And Niyama
Friday morning arrived with the feeling of rejuvenation in the air. The three brothers all said that the visit to the public bath the night before had paid off, and they were fully restored and reinvigorated.
To start the day off, we accompanied Yohei to his workplace, the Sakura Home-Aid Service in Arashiyama, travelling first by bus and then by train. Taka came with us as well. Yohei is registered to work at this social service center and has been working there for about 5 days a week for three and a half years. He attends to around seven clients per month and serves 1 to 2 clients each day. His work is to support them when they go out to do various activities, to do housework, and to help them with their physical care, either at the Sakura facility or during home visits. Yogadanda also works at the same location.
Sakura is both an agency that provides social and home aid services and serves as a residence for people with disabilities. It was originally founded by three people, Mr. Takahashi, Ms. Makino and Mr. Horie, and we were fortunate to meet all three of them during this visit. One thing that is unique about the Sakura residence is that it is a not an institutional looking home, it is a house that is architecturally barrier-free and the residents can actually live in private rooms and enjoy a comfortable standard of living. There are also opportunities for them to work right there on-site as full time employees. One of the founders, Mr. Horie, uses a wheelchair to get around, and so the concept of Sakura was developed with a firsthand understanding of the challenges faced by people with special needs, both in an emotional and physical sense, and also in the context of their place in the society as a whole. It is common for people with disabilities in Japan to work at specialized community work centers, where they can do various jobs to engage in society and support themselves, but the pay is extremely low and it is barely enough to live on. Unlike the typical work center, Sakura offers an environment where people with special needs can work and earn a proper income if they have computer skills or other useful talents. Currently, there are five people with disabilities who work there, and there are three who are living in the housing facility, one of which is Mr. Horie himself.
At the request of Mr. Takahashi, Yohei has been offering an Asana and Meditation class once a week since last August. The class was begun because Mr. Takahashi wanted to try asana and meditation in order to improve his own health, as well as take care of the helpers at Sakura in order to prevent or heal their chronic lower-back pain, which often arises as a consequence of their hard work.
When we got there we could see right away how friendly Mr. Takahashi and everyone else was, and how eager they were to welcome this unique group of visitors. The attendees at the class that day were the three founders, one of the attendants and one staff member who herself was wheelchair user. They all practiced in silence with the brothers from New York as Yohei led them. There was great harmony in the class, and the people from Sakura and the brothers from NY were mutually inspired by each other’s dedication and sincerity. We hope that they will continue and discover for themselves the power of asana and meditation practice, going further into the journey of searching the Self and for real Freedom.
Mr. Takahashi, one of the founders of Sakura(second from right)
After that, Mr. Takahashi invited us to have homemade soba (buckwheat noodles) for lunch, along with Mr. Horie and his helper, at a place nearby. This gave the NY brothers the opportunity to see how soba noodles are formed.
When he was in junior high school, Mr. Horie was diagnosed with a physically debilitating condition that will worsen over time. He seems to be a charismatic, very intuitive and artistic thinker. Mr. Miyaji, Mr. Horie’s attendant that day, was bringing food to Mr. Horie’s mouth. Again, it was a meaningful experience to see Yohei’s work firsthand, and it was also a great discovery to learn about Sakura and the worthwhile mission to which they are dedicated. Unfortunately, we didn’t have enough time to really get to know these three founders, but from the little bit of interaction we did have with them, we could feel that they were truly flexible, open-minded, and blessed free spirits!! And what was most noteworthy was that they demonstrated their beliefs in their actions, which is something that we, as aspiring yogi and yogini, strive to do in our daily lives as well. We are truly grateful to have had this experience, thank you so much for letting us be a part of Sakura, and hopefully our paths may cross again someday!
Mr. Horie, one of the founders of Sakura (front)
Mr. Miyaji, Mr. Horie’s attendant (right) and Aniruddha
After we had said our goodbyes, Yohei went back to work and we headed off to the center area of Kyoto with Taka. This afternoon would be the last chance to pick up a few souvenirs to bring back to New York, as our trip was nearing its end.
During our visit to the center of the city, Aniruddha and Ryan got themselves special T-shirts, which you will be able to see in the photos in the next blog (Echo 47).
Taka and Yohei had to work the nightshift that night, so we went to Yoga Vihara for dinner, which consisted of a special ramen (noodle soup) that is a well-known dish from Yogadanda and Taka’s hometown, Fukuoka. (Yogadanda and Taka are brothers.) Kripalu and Anandi were also there. Anandi had travelled from Matsuyama, in Ehime prefecture, by long distance bus in order to attend the satsangha at the Ashrama the next day (Saturday) as well as Siddha Marga on Sunday. It took six hours for her to get there from her hometown. There were times that she used to come to Kyoto almost every weekend, but now she comes once or twice a month.
One week had passed since their arrival to Kyoto. And the Kyoto gurubhai knew that the NY brothers’ main theme for this visit was discrimination, how important it is to clarify one’s issue for the practice of discrimination, and how to make one’s ideal concrete in order to aim for the target.
The Kyoto gurubhai were really trying to help the NY brothers grasp the real practice of discrimination in daily life. Yogadanda spoke the following example of his meditation experience.
Years ago, there was a time that Yogadanda was working as a dishwasher at the restaurant in Kyoto hotel. At that time, there was an elder lady who was also working as a dishwasher part time job, like he was, and she had a quick temper. One day, she got mad at Yogadanda for unreasonable things. But that shock curved in his mind as a strong impression. At that time, he had a habitual routine of practicing asana right after getting home from his job, so he practiced asana when he got home as usual. But while he was practicing asana, that woman’s face was there all the time, and he could not get rid of it until he finished all asana. As he sat for meditation—at that time, he was meditating on Shri Mahayogi—the lady’s face was always there, disturbing his concentration on Shri Mahayogi, and she did not disappear. He struggled very hard to try to focus on Shri Mahayogi. He did not know how long he was there in this condition, but in the midst of this battle, an intuition came that “I and this lady are the same existence,’ at which point he felt that, “Most likely something happened to this woman that caused her so much stress that it built up within her, causing her to burst out in an attack towards me, who happened to be there.” “I also have the mind that is of exactly the same structure as hers, and I too would burst out at some point if I built up my stress continuously like that.” “I am, essentially, the same existence as she is.” As he felt this, the light shone from Shri Mahayogi, the object of his meditation, and the face of that older lady melted away into light. He said that he was meditating on the form of Shri Mahayogi, but by the teaching of Shri Mahayogi—“Every existence in its essence is the same existence”—discrimination happened within him. He thinks that that was why he experienced this teaching of Shri Mahayogi in his meditation, as well as Shri Mahayogi’s form and the teaching of “Truth is One.” The next morning he went to work as usual. Before this experience, when similar things would happen, he must have felt that he did not want to see that person or even go to work, but there were no such thoughts. Therefore, he dealt with the same older lady neutrally, as normal. Later on, he got long with that lady, and since then he has never been attacked by her for any unreasonable matter. He understood that before she was hard for him to deal with, so unconsciously he had the vibe of “avoiding”, however, through applying discrimination in meditation, he was able to conquer this feeling, and so his vibe changed.
The Kyoto gurubhai began to ask some questions related to these topics. Nandi said that he chose Swami Vivekananda as his ideal Saint. So Anandi asked him more precisely what it was that he likes about Vivekananda, or how he concretely idealizes Vivekananda. She asked him this because at one point she wrote an article about Swami Vivekananda for Paramahamsa. And that experienced caused her to deeply ponder how she could actually bring her way of life and her conduct closer to his mind and spirit. In contrast to that kind of focused inquiry, it appeared that Nandi’s answer was still very general. Satya, who came to Yoga Vihara on their second day after the satsangha and spoke about the practice of discrimination through her actual experience, tried to help them get a better understanding of the process of discrimination that night again. She asked Ryan what he had been discriminating on. Again, Ryan’s answer was somewhat vague, something that could be resolved without engaging too deeply in discrimination. Then Satya asked, “Do you know about yama and niyama?” She asked this because she inferred from what he said that it sounded like he had been observing his conduct in daily life, which is a positive thing. So if he were to apply yama and niyama to his actions and then observe them, what he has already been trying to do can then become discrimination. Ryan said that he knew the yama and niyama, but he has not really been consciously practicing them. So Satya explained that if we practice yama and niyama in our daily lives, consequently, the practice of discrimination, meditation and asana can advance more rapidly. The obstacles in meditation, or the thoughts that arise in meditation, are often impressions that are recorded in daily life, and further, most of them are caused by not being able to be consistent with yama and niyama. That means that if we remain vigilant and pay close attention to our conduct in daily life, we can practice asana and meditation with full concentration, since our impressions will not be recorded in the mind, and therefore thoughts will not arise while we practice them. Some of the yama and niyama may sound very simple, yet if we want to practice them thoroughly and perfectly, it is an extremely difficult practice, as if we are being tested from moment to moment. Ultimately, if we practice making all of our actions and words correspond to yama and niyama, 24 hours of each and every day will become Yoga. And if we can practice observing any one of them diligently, it will end up encompassing the observation of all the yama and niyama.
By the way, the meaning of her name Satya is Truth, and it is in one of yama: Satya is Truthfulness.
(The journey continues… )