Posts tagged ‘Swami Satchidananda’

A Spiritual Almanack- May: Flourishing

Hexagram 46: Growing Upward

 

Earth over Wood.

Wood grows up from the earth,

An image of flourishing.

In correspondence with this,

The superior person cultivates his virtue,

Accomplishes small things

And evolves to a higher level.

 

Karma is a mysterious path.

May 1st – Mayday- used to be the day created by the workers to celebrate their unity and solidarity. But now that almost all of us are workers (or self employed), we no longer feel there is anything to celebrate. For many of us work has become a drudgery, a form of indentured slavery that we must perform to make money to pay for our daily needs; a kind of curse, without joy, without pleasure, without satisfaction, without meaning. It is rarely performed as an end in itself, but as a means to an end.

The Bhagavad Gita presents a yogic view of work that is radically different than our contemporary view. The yogic view of work is called karma yoga, and is a transforming vision of how to live. If we could follow its teachings we would create a revolution in the way we think of ourselves, our actions, our relationship to others, and to the world, and this would reinvest our lives with deep meaning and purpose. The Gita shows us how to transform work from a mundane and deadening activity to a form of spiritual teaching and inner evolution.

In the Gita Krishna, a God who is the incarnation of the Hindu Trinity – the gods Brahma the creator, Siva the destroyer and Vishnu the preserver – teaches the warrior Arjuna about spiritual duty and the search for spiritual freedom. In this dialogue Krishna makes the clearest statement about karma yoga, the yoga of selfless action,

Do your work, but don’t go looking for any benefits from the results. Don’t be motivated by the fruits of your actions, but you must never become inactive either. Do your work in the peace of Yoga, free from selfish desires, not moved by success or failure. Yoga is evenness of the mind, a peace that is always steady.

Work done for reward is much lower than work done through the Yoga of wisdom. Take refuge in wisdom, because those who are motivated by the rewards of their work are to be pitied. With this wisdom and stillness of mind, we can go beyond good and evil. So practise yoga, for yoga is perfection in action.

Looked at in this way, work can be an evolutionary process by which a human being progresses towards a state of being which is at one with a greater purpose, which we call the divine, or God, or Tao, or the Spirit. This aspect of the divine is not a stranger to us, as it lives within our inmost core as our deepest self, and the aim of yoga is to allow it to emerge and flourish so that it can inform our very consciousness. Karma yoga is a process of spiritual evolution.

Karma yoga calls on us to perform the ordinary activities of life, but to remain detached from their fruits or results. It asks us to concentrate only on the act itself, operating solely in the moment, considering each act as an end in itself, and not motivated by future results.

If a person’s reason is unwavering, and she is free from the desire for the results of action, she is liberated from the limiting aspects of actions performed while being attached to the objects of sense.

The unenlightened do things with attachment to results. The enlightened, however, do things with the same energy but without attachment, and so guide others on the path of selfless action.

The modern view of karma yoga is of selfless action undertaken for the good of others. But this is not the way the ancient Gita sees it. To be truly selfless does not mean to be altruistic, since actions undertaken for ends, even good ends, are still attachments and are less perfect than acts undertaken exclusively for themselves.

Krishna says that the wise, aware that there is no escape from the duties of life, fulfil their duties and submit to their work in a spirit of joy. However mean the work, they do it well, but without attachment or selfish desire. Work undertaken like this can perfect the soul, so the type of work does not really matter. As Swami Satchidananda says,

Once you are free of selfish desire

You work for the joy of it

And all your actions are as play

People worry that if they give up their ego-driven focus of work, nothing will get done. Without desire won’t we just vegetate and stagnate? Krishna explains,

The forces of nature accomplish everything. But when our minds are clouded with ego, we think that we have made things happen. Arjuna, the person who understands the relationship between the forces of Nature and actions, and sees how the forces of Nature work together with other forces of Nature to make things happen, does not become their slave. If we are deluded about these forces of Nature then we become attached to nature’s functions.

It is the forces of Nature (The Three Gunas) that really make things happen, but we delude ourselves into thinking that it is our will that has actually accomplished something, and so our ego and pride inflate, taking us further away from reality.

Once we understand that it is the potent energy of the universe that makes things happen we can stand back and let go, and this letting go allows us to function freely and easily in the world, and through this playful freedom we are able to effect the healthy flourishing of body, mind and spirit.

Advertisements

May 2, 2016 at 12:30 pm Leave a comment

A Spiritual Almanack- March: Early Growth

Hexagram 4: MENG (Childhood)

Mountain

Over

Water (stream)

I have always been regretting that I was not as wise as the day I was born.

H.D. Thoreau

All beginnings hide their magnificence. Life is unfolding, but it is not yet fully manifest: in the beginning of things, in early growth, we see only the tips, the first growths that hide enormous potential.

The image: A spring flows out of a mountain.

Water emerging from a deep source under the dark cover of the mountain collects naturally into a spring, pure and transparent, like the clarity of a child’s innocent mind. As it travels down the mountain and enters the valley the murmuring streams converge into a great river, grow broader and deeper and eventually merge into the sea. When the spring gushes forth, it doesn’t know where it will end, it just flows on and on, trusting its own nature. Everything begins in this small way and has the potential to become naturally great.

But at the foot of the mountain lies difficulty. After the spring emerges, sediment builds up and the initial pure clarity of the fresh spring is obscured and lost. Our own minds also start out pure and clear, showing the mind of Tao, but as we grow up we acquire conditioning – kleshas, ignorance, attachments, false illusions – which obscure our inner clarity, and we are left with the conditioned human mind, losing the real and gaining the false. We fail to see the world clearly, and our ego gets in the way.

The way to combat ignorance, to reverse the human mind back to the mind of Tao is through self-cultivation, through nourishing our correct nature, but it is difficult to do this without losing childlike innocence.

Lao Tzu was asked,

“Can you explain the Tao of keeping good health?”

He replied,

Can you embrace the One?

Can you keep from losing it?

Can you know good and bad fortune without consulting the oracle?

Can you rest where you ought to rest?

Can you stop when you have enough?

Can you leave others alone and seek it in yourself alone?

Can you flee from desire?

Can you be sincere?

Can you become like a little child? A child can cry all day without becoming hoarse — so perfect is its harmony. It can clench its fists all day without relaxing its grip – such is the concentration of its power. It can stare all day without moving its eyes — so unconcerned is it by the outside world. It walks but doesn’t know where. It rests where it’s placed, but it doesn’t know why. It unconsciously mingles with things, and just follows their flow. This is how to guard life.

Rabbi Jesus said,

Truly I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.

All beginnings, whenever we start something new, whether it is a yoga teacher training course, a business, a relationship, a creative work, a new political or social movement or the birth of a child, all follow this pattern. We start everything with the expectation that it will grow, develop and prosper, and it can if we have the flexibility of yin to act in accordance with the time and follow the right principles.

The danger at the beginning of things can only be overcome by cultivating our virtues, our highest human values. These are the principles that can sustain our growth, help us to fulfill our potential, and avoid and correct any obstacles that arise. What are these virtues? Swami Satchidananda said that his teacher Swami Sivananda used to say that yoga was so simple. It was “just being good, doing good.” All new beginnings need to be sustained by the most positive values that we can bring to bear: love, compassion and honesty. The ethical teachings of the yamas and niyamas in Patanjali’s yoga sutras say the same thing – by living correctly, ethically, we can live well.

At our beginning we are innocence itself, pure love, and for most of us we are as close to our essence as we will ever be in this body and in this life. As we grow and develop we cross a bridge from love to fear and our task is to return to that beginning and go back over the bridge from fear to love.

When you watch a baby, she is completely at one with her body; her body moves where it needs to go, and her beauty is in her perfection. She is totally present; there is no future, there is no past.

The goal of yoga is to find our true essence, to be totally connected to the spirit or soul within, our inner God, and to be present in each and every moment, just as a baby is.

As we practise our yoga asanas, we are looking to release the habitual patterns of deep tension and bad posture that many of us have developed so that we can allow our bodies to move freely and without tension. It is our attention on the body as we practise and the conscious use of the breath that will help us to get in touch with the body’s inherent wisdom to keep us healthy and happy. As we allow the gravity and our breath to work for us and touch the ground with trust and love, we can learn to trust and love ourselves and the universe around us. This is how we can make the return journey to that bridge so that we can cross back from fear to love.

Pranayama practise and kriyas will help us to clear the impurities from the body, clear our energetic pathways and give us a deep inner strength. The purpose of meditation is to still the mind, learn to understand its wily ways and gain some control over it so that we can go beyond the conscious mind to something much deeper that puts us in touch with the God within us and the immense universal power within us and outside of us. This is true love and with this love we have nothing to fear.

March 1, 2016 at 12:19 pm Leave a comment


The Blog That Fell From The Sky

Reflections on an age of anxiety.

Categories