Saturday June 27, 2020 NYC
Under the Abrupt Condition of Quarantine and its Major Life Transitions:
A Testimony of Reformation
“Understand it as condition of seclusion like that of Yoga—Kumbhaka.”
-Satguru Shri Mahayogi Paramahansa
Almost right after Shri Mahayogi went back to Japan after the winter visit, NYC went into PAUSE under the conditions of the worldwide health pandemic. Mahayogi Yoga Mission’s Asana & Meditation classes were suspended, along with other in-person activities, like the Study in Practice group (SIP), which had been meeting since the Fall of 2018 with the principle of deepening spiritual practice and understanding through acting upon and thereby experientially learning the teachings of Yoga.
Up until the PAUSE, the members of Study in Practice had been meeting about twice a month. However, spontaneously and out of the member’s own will, one of two smaller groups within the Study in Practice group began to meet twice a week by phone at the same time that Mahayogi Yoga Mission had held its regular Asana & Meditation classes. Around the same time, Anandamali, the director of the Mission in New York, sent a message, “We should take this time positively, as a time to study and practice the teachings of Shri Mahayogi more deeply. My heart is with you.” Then the other small group of the larger Study in Practice group also decided to meet, in the same way as the first.
Suddenly, concerning about the Sangha and the situation in New York, Shri Mahayogi sent a message:
“You have to endure.
Understand this as a condition of seclusion,
like that of Yoga—Kumbhaka.
Persist—there is nothing you can do but that.”
Certainly, we had no idea how long this condition would and will continue. However, definitely “Kumbhaka” in the message of Shri Mahayogi was the great guideline. The period of being in quarantine can be a very difficult time, however it is up to us, each individual, how to take this time of constraint as the positive practice time for Kumbhaka so that the energy within us will strengthen and that we may build within ourselves the internal fortitude that comes as a result.
Definitively, with this condition of being more or less isolated, meeting twice a week for Study in Practice was a dramatic shift in frequency and it intensified the focus of the group toward the internal work of the mind, which is actually the most important part of the work of Yoga, though it can be the most challenging.
When Study in Practice began, around the end of August, 2018, Shri Mahayogi gave a message to the Sangha through the following metaphor:
“The most vital part is missing.
A man who had heard about the Truth, thought that he wanted to cross to the other shore, the Truth. This is the step where one just gets interested in Yoga or spiritual things. Then he tried to embark on the journey, pulling hard on the oars. The night passed and the next morning, when he looked around, he was still at the same place. He had not taken off the rope that his boat was moored with to the shore of the world. This is a very common mistake that all are liable to fall into. Before one begins the journey and pulls on the oars, or learns the Truth and devotes to the spiritual practice of disciplines, one ought to have taken off the ropes. Unless one completes this basic step well, the boat cannot progress forward no matter how much one pulls on the oars.”
Then he clarified that our task is “to clarify and identify what these ropes are, and renounce them.”
In a way, the consistency of this intensive time of internal focus, with the condition of limited stimulation from outside activities, led our work intensely towards doing this.
The following is the testimony of one practitioner who was very much in the struggle of the vicious cycle of the mind, yet he suddenly saw through to a moment of Light. It is truly a blessing. For many years we witnessed this vicious cycle, yet somehow he kept going and did not give up searching, even though many things were clouded. It really proves that we cannot judge ourselves, whether we are making progress or not, but rather, if we don’t give up and stick to it, by going through it, eventually we will see the Light.
“I Know” is the Obstacle!
Over the last couple of weeks I was asked by my senior disciples to think deeply about what I am living for and what I want to do in this life. After thinking about it for a few days I decided to just watch my mind to see if there is something that will surface and to see what some of the obstacles are that stand in the way of me finding the answer.
On the weekend, I was invited to go to the mountains to visit a friend. A day before the trip, because I started to worry that I might lose focus of my homework during the time of the visit, I decided to make an effort to try and always remember the teaching that I am the Consciousness, not the body, and so is everybody else.
Once I arrived, I quickly found that, because I spent most of the last few months at home, not interacting much with others, I had a strong impulse to chat a lot. So I decided to engage in conversations, but at the same time try not to forget my goal and try to focus on the true Self in others and myself.
Later that night, while sitting by the fire, a conversation started up between a friend of mine and I about one of the Satsangha from last summer that we had both attended. My friend was expressing her opinion about one of the attendees and what she thought about this person’s demeanor during the event. As she continued to express, I felt a strong reaction in my mind saying “you actually don’t know about this person but I do,” and a strong need to say something to make her change the way she was thinking. So I tried to say something, but the more intensely I was trying to convince her that her opinion is wrong and that I know what’s what, the more she was talking about the same thing and maintaining her own point of view. The reaction in my mind became so strong that it actually started to bother me a lot. At this point, wanting to change this, I stopped and asked myself, “why am I so bothered?” It suddenly dawned on me that the issue was that, in my mind, I thought that I knew best, that what I thought was right and what she thought was wrong. This made me suffer greatly. I felt that I had no choice but to ask myself whether I really knew about this person who attended the Satsangha or not. Looking at my mind I realized that I didn’t really know at all and there was no way I could claim that I was right. Accepting this, I started to really listen to my friend and realized that she was bothered by something about this person’s demeanor, but up until this point I couldn’t see it because of my preconceived idea that “I know” and “I am right.” Finally, I started to think about how there were so many things that were discussed at that Satsangha and I wondered if any of us would be better off focusing on remembering the teachings of Shri Mahayogi that were given that day instead. So I asked her if there was anything that she took from the Satsangha, and after thinking for some time she shared one of the teachings that Shri Mahayogi had spoken, and right away the energy changed and the conversation took a completely different turn.
After this, I immediately remembered my goal for this trip, and tried to stay quiet, to just think and focus on the Consciousness and on others as being that same Consciousness. Then I realized that one of the things that stops me from getting closer to realizing what I really want and what I really want to live for, is that I carry the strong preconceived idea that I know and I am right about many things, including life and Yoga practice. From here comes a way of expressing myself that tends to be pushy and to lean a little towards sounding fanatic about some topics. Also, I probably don’t see things that are being revealed to me on a daily basis because the mind is full with this attitude.
Meanwhile, my friend started to talk with somebody else and overhearing their conversation, I noticed my mind quickly trying to interrupt again with the same tendency to prove a point, but this time I continued to focus on the thought and essence of them as being the Pure Consciousness—and then something happened. Immediately there was a moment of clarity in which I felt overwhelmed by the feeling that there’s nothing to be said, that there’s no need to change anything, that this Consciousness is just playing using the minds and bodies of my friends. I saw them as innocent kids at play and that the whole creation is like that too, that there’s nothing to be achieved, that we are all moving on the path towards realizing the Truth at our own pace and that there’s nobody higher or lower just because one might understand more or less. Our minds are different, and from now on I’ll have to strive to really understand the mind of the person in front of me in order to be able to really connect with them.
Now, I can’t say with conviction that I found my life’s purpose that night, but I know that those moments of freedom that I had are something that I would like to experience more often, together with the closeness that I felt with the people around me. I also have to accept that those small moments of clarity happened because I met Shri Mahayogi and attempted to understand and practice the teachings of Yoga under his guidance. This makes me more confident that if I just try to think and act based on the teachings as often as I can, I will have more and more of these moments, and hopefully, one day, the feeling of Oneness will occupy my mind permanently.
Thank you very much Shri Mahayogi!
Ekanta, June 2020
We found that, interestingly, this testimony is precisely an example of how one result of “Kumbhaka” could appear.
At the start of quarantine, as an effect of the conditions, Ekanta lost his job. Around the same time, he experienced a physical condition that did not allow him to use his physical body for anything more than the absolute necessities—in fact anything other than lying down or walking for short periods of time was challenging. On top of that, the condition of isolation from quarantine was further compounded by the fact that his roommate was gone most of the time, along with the majority of his friends, who would often stay upstate. At one point his physical condition started to improve, and he was able to be a little bit more physically active—but then, he soon became injured again. Truly, it must have been so difficult to bear it.
Looking back now, or if we see it from different perspective, it was actually as if, for some reason, Ekanta was truly forced into a state in which all external conditions were putting him under a completely unusual and intense form of restraint—with “nowhere to escape.” Even so, somehow he continued to hold on to the SIP group meetings and in spite of the struggle of his own mind in these conditions, endured it.
When the moment came to visit his friends and momentarily relax these tight conditions, an experience of a glimpse of Truth came, as if all these conditions he went through were given through the grace of Shri Mahayogi.
In a way, what he went through very much resembles the practice of asana (physical postures) that Shri Mahayogi teaches, or rather, it symbolically revealed how what can happen through practice of asana on a smaller scale, can be like a representation of what can happen through the “kumbhaka” of the quarantine. In the way that Shri Mahayogi teaches practice of asana, there is a combination of juxtaposing asana and savasana (corpse pose). During each asana, a condition of intense restraint and concentration is created and maintained for some time, and is then followed by savasana, which allows for the opposite state to come as its contrast—the relaxed state of completely letting go. Shri Mahayogi teaches that savasana is an important asana. The role of savasana might not be understood properly, but we can also see from this example that when practiced correctly, it can create within the mind the state of sattva, which can give rise to even the smallest amount of space—and that space is where the Truth can emerge.
Daily practice of asana is the training that prepares us for living life every day. And often what we face within ourselves during practice of asana, has the same content of what we have to face in our day to day lives, albeit on a much larger and more prolonged scale. If we train to endure in asana, then when the conditions arise in actual life situations, we must use that training to endure and persist for as long as we need to, until the condition of “release” comes. If we do so, then the space cleared in the mind for the Truth perhaps may be much more than what is cleared while on the yoga mat.
We are in awe of how all of this once again reveals the vastness of Shri Mahayogi’s grace and guidance that is inherent in the teachings and practices that Shri Mahayogi bestows upon us.