Echo From The Cave: 165

Monday March 7, 2022 NYC

Talk at the End of the Asana & Meditation Class
Sunday, March 6, 2022:

Reflecting Daily Life in Practice of Asana:
Seeking Out the Secret Behind the Form

 “Do you know that which when once known everything else becomes known?”
Chandogya Upanishad VI

There are many details and instructions in asana, and this can be true, yet I want to point out that surely there is some reason behind all the small details. For example, the importance of keeping the knee straight in certain positions, since if not kept straight, then prana (life force energy) will escape from that area. In practice of asana, we are actually taking prana into the body, therefore, when we allow it to escape, though the position may become a tiny bit easier or less intense for us, we are not letting ourselves receive the full benefit of the asana. These are things that have been pointed out to me in the past and I certainly have come to feel a clear difference. It is the same when we allow our eye gaze to shift around, or, in exerting some effort we may allow the mouth to open or feel the need to exhale through the mouth. These too, I have come to learn, represent a break in concentration, and I do feel that when it happens, something is lost. Whether we call that concentration, or prana, or benefit, or something else…the naming of it doesn’t matter so much, but the experience that differs, I feel is important.

I think that through this practice given by Shri Mahayogi, I have been allowed to become very convinced that asana indeed holds a secret. Not a secret, like the type where something is being hidden from us, because nothing is being hidden. Rather that secret is like something that must always be evidently there, it’s just that until our minds become aware of it, it is like it is a secret. I feel that many of the details in the practice of asana are helping to guide us to be able to eventually become aware of this secret of asana, that is, the essence of it.

Actually, I feel that there is not just a “secret of asana,” but there is a secret within probably just about everything, just waiting for us to become aware of it.

Recently, I have been going through a complete change of career. And in that, there are many new things that I am having to learn. Everything is brand new to me, so it requires a lot of my attention and concentration. At some point, I was reflecting on the content that we put into our minds. Think about it, we are all the time filling our minds with content: from interests or hobbies, to job responsibilities, to entertainment, to the social interactions we have, to news, to new endeavors and just about everything in between. I was reflecting on how the content of our mind and what we choose to fill it with, is utterly important, as this becomes part of the base from which we view and interpret all else. I started to concern about how much I was packing my mind with all kinds of new content. I feel like I am spending so much time filling my mind with new content…everything from heating systems, to plumbing, to roof structures, landscaping, the way water flows…so many things…where am I leaving room for the content of Yoga?

Yet at the same time, I knew that my current situation is such that I must spend this time learning many new things in a concentrated way. That is what is called for, given the circumstances, and that is what is being served on my plate, so to speak, and there’s nothing I can do but accept it! So rather than concerning over “leaving room for the content of Yoga,” which I am aware is a concern, that in and of itself, is limited to a certain way of thinking about what Yoga is or looks like, and actually I am trying to gain flexibility in understanding how “living on Yoga” may appear in varieties of situations, I started to wonder instead, how can I overlap with Yoga?

It just so happens, that very shortly after this concern appeared, I happened to read a short passage that firmly planted my feet on the ground and gave me an important clue for directing the mind.

Actually, it was an excerpt from one of the Upanishads, which we have published a version of in one the Testimonies in Pranavidipa (Vol. 77), though on this occasion I read this excerpt in a different book that Anandamali had recommended to me several months ago, titled Hindu Mysticism by Surendranath Dasgupta. The excerpted part of the Chandogya Upanishad VI goes as follows:

When Shvetaketu returned after a stay of twelve years at the house of his preceptor, where he studied all the Vedas, he became arrogant, considered himself to be a wise man, and hardly ever talked with others. His father said to him:
“Well, Shvetaketu, what have you learned that you seem to think yourself so wise? Do you know that which when once known everything else becomes known? When you once know what iron is, you know all that can be made out of iron, for these are in essence nothing but iron; we can distinguish the iron vessels from iron only by their specific forms and names. But whatever may be their names and forms, the true essence in them all, whether they be needles, pans or handles, is nothing but iron. It is only that you find therein so many forms and names. What are these names and forms worth without the essence? It is the essence, the iron, that manifests in so many forms and names; when this iron is known, all that is made of iron is also known. It is the ineffable reality, the ultimate being which is the essence of everything else. As rivers which flow into the sea lose all their individuality in it and cannot be distinguished, so all divergent things lose their individuality and distinctness when they are merged in this highest being, the ultimate reality from which they have all sprung forth. Fine and subtle though this experience be, yet it is in reality the entire universe of our knowledge. A small seed of an oak tree when split open reveals nothing that we can call worth noting, yet it is this fine kernel of the seed that holds within it the big oak tree.”

Reading it, I was immediately struck, and the concern that had popped up in my mind seemed to evaporate at once. Not only is this story incredibly soul inspiring, touching upon something that seems invisible yet certain and undeniable, it carried the message that regardless of whatever new content I may be filling my mind with in this moment, there’s no need to be blind sighted and caught up in the surface of it. Because regardless of the type of content, the essence of it is always there waiting to be discovered. That essence IS what overlaps with Yoga and it is there all the time. And that is precisely what I want to discover, regardless of what the details are of the things I need to learn, the tasks I need to complete, or whatever it is that comes my way just as a result of living in this world we live in. Learning, doing new things, coming to understand new things—all of these have their place and value in different circumstances and they are a part of life—but I believe that, at the same time, directing the mind beyond what’s most readily evident on the surface of each of our life situations and all the various things we live and have on our own plates, is a treasure of a clue. Just as much in our daily life circumstances as in practice of asana, we each have before us the perfect situation to dive in and try to discover what is that essence at the core of all!

~ Sadhya

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