Talk at the End of the Asana & Meditation Class
Wednesday, May 18th 2022
Making a Leap of Faith Towards Yoga
Here in NYC, the sangha has been meeting online for the past few months to study Seeking Truth: Memoirs of a Yogini, by Mirabai, a disciple of Shri Mahayogi who lives in Kyoto. Although originally from Osaka, Mirabai moved to Kyoto, after practicing Yoga for some time with Mahayogi Yoga Mission, in order to deepen her practice by living with gurubai. Over the past two weeks, we have been reading and discussing the chapters of the book that describe this experience and what she learned from it, as we try to understand more and more deeply what we ourselves can learn from her journey towards Yoga.
Toward the end of the meeting, Anandamali asked Sadhya to speak a little bit from her own experience about what she has found to be the difference between the experience of living with gurubai and living alone. Sadhya shared that when living alone, even if one may be trying to live according to what Yoga teaches, the mind’s actual understanding of what Yoga teaches and what living according to It may look like is often very limited. In fact, everything we understand may only be within the realm of our own mind-world and imagination, according to pre-conceived ideas and notions, and it may be difficult to recognize simply, straightforwardly, and practically how the teachings of Yoga can become the base of everyday actions, in a real way. In living with gurubai, you get to encounter a new world that is not just filled up with your own thoughts, habits and ways of doing things. What you can learn opens up much beyond that, and you have opportunity to expand your view in ways you might not come up with on your own…even if that relates to incredibly simple things.
With that as the base, Sadhya mentioned about the importance and value of being able to learn from a senior disciple’s experience in Yoga, becoming aware of things about ourselves and about all kinds of other daily life things that we may not understand or easily notice when we are living alone, due to of being caught up and dominated by one’s own mind-world and having a hard time to bring ourselves to consider much beyond that. And of course, underneath almost all conversations is the base of the teachings of Yoga and the aim of carrying out the work of Shri Mahayogi, of the Mission, and so on; there is always a shared sense of purpose and along with that a great deal of inspiration. Listening to her speak, I began to think seriously about whether I too would like to live in a sangha house myself.
In the past, when I have sometimes thought about living with gurubai, I always imagined someone coming to live in my apartment with me. That’s because I have quite a lot of space, pay significantly less than a normal NYC rent, and have lived here for more than 20 years. In any case, whether with gurubai or not, I have long assumed that I would live here for the rest of my life. However, realistically, my place is not even close to ideal for setting up a sangha house. If I really want to do that, I will have to move.
At first, my mind reacted strongly against that idea: That’s crazy! Impossible! How could I possibly give up this space now? (I won’t go into all the reasons why here, but from what most people would probably consider a “practical” perspective, this would seem like a ridiculously misguided plan.)
But when my mind reacted that way, I couldn’t help but remember that in so many Testimonies in Pranavadipa and even in episodes from Seeking Truth, it is anything but uncommon for the mind to scream “That’s impossible!” when first considering trying to put the teachings of Yoga into actual practice. When I started to look more closely at exactly what I thought was so impossible about it, what I started to see, under a thin veneer of false “selflessness” (If I leave now, the apartment will lose its future rent stabilization status. If I move to another neighborhood, it will make it so much more difficult for the co-owner of my dog!), was my own comfort and convenience (I would probably have a much longer commute! I’d have to adjust to a new neighborhood and a new routine! I have so many memories and possessions of loved ones who are gone here that I would have to leave behind!).
But I could see that those were just attachments and aversions to worldly things that my mind believes are part of what makes me “me”. And if I keep clinging to them, allowing them to determine how I’m going to live, I’m not going to be able to make any real progress in Yoga, no matter how much asana I practice or how much I can make myself sit for meditation. And I am not young; I don’t have all the time in the world.
So therefore I felt the need to return to the first, most important question for a seeker: What do I REALLY want—to keep hemming and hawing, thinking I’m practicing while not really making a commitment or taking a risk…or to fully jump in and try with all my heart to live in Yoga? What do I TRULY believe the significance of Shri Mahayogi’s existence is, and how can I honor the incredibly precious gift of having personally met a Holy Being, receiving a spiritual name, and being allowed to have access to the authentic teachings of Truth directly from the lips of a Satguru, a Paramahansa? In all of human history, how many people can say that they have had this rare experience? How many have ever truly had even the slightest chance to experience ultimate Reality? And how many get to participate in the work of protecting, preserving and helping to make sure those incredibly precious gifts can be properly transmitted to others in the future, who may not have the opportunity to personally meet Shri Mahayogi?
The number must be infinitesimally small, out of all the human beings who have ever been born.
I began to feel that the time has come. Shri Mahayogi and Anandamali have been waiting patiently for so many years for more gurubai to take the leap of faith necessary to carry the Mission forward. I cannot depend on others to do it; if I truly want to grow in Yoga, and if I truly want the Mission to survive for future generations, I must prepare myself now to be a bigger part of making it happen, sincerely and without reservation; because I am one of that infinitesimally small number, I have to take it as my own responsibility.
There is also something that I have learned from listening to the experiences of senior disciples, reading their Testimonies and studying Seeking Truth, and that is that even though my mind may get blinded by the fear of losing what it imagines I may give up, it cannot begin to imagine what I will receive through that very same giving up. But whatever I can or cannot imagine, I can recognize that the things I will have to let go of, I am already destined to lose, no matter how tightly I grip them, while the things that I can gain through a much deeper and more committed practice of Yoga can never be lost—not even to death itself. Recognizing it is the first step, but to make it meaningful, I have to follow through with action:
“The teachings of Yoga or Buddha are not intellectual exercises at all—they are a concrete way to get out of suffering; so practicing without applying them and continuously putting them into action is completely meaningless!”
– Shri Mahayogi, Seeking Truth
I do not know exactly how or when these changes may come about. But I have decided to begin to prepare for the opportunity to arise, and to be ready to make that leap of faith when the time is ripe. As Shri Ramakrishna taught to the young Vivekananda, there is no need to fear drowning when diving towards Sanatana Dharma, because its waters are verily the Sea of Immortality itself.
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