Monthly Archives: October 2009

Tough Times: What does a Modern Yogi do? [Article]

http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/Commons:GNU_Free_Documentation_License_1.2Earlier this week while catching up on current events courtesy of the internet I read this: New York Times, October 3: Mr. Obama, in his Saturday radio and Internet address, noted that the job loss rate was continuing to decline, reflecting what economists have said was evidence that the recession is slowly ending. But that’s not really the case is it?

We are also being mislead by politico’s, pundits, and spin doctor’s tying to convince us to manically cling to the evaporating hallucination that every will be alright if we just get back to our old shopping standard. Our preceding era of relentless consumerism is now giving way to the sober reality that a credit-driven economy has to come crashing down sooner than later. As obvious as this might seem, many people are caught in the anthem of all dogma, “we believe what we want to believe.” Historically this is a launch pad for fascism, totalitarianism, and the inevitable dismissal of human rights. Unfortunately, public policy, control of the media, and economic development at a national or global level, are all things that seem to be well beyond our control. And, to some extent, this is true. So what is a modern yogi to do? A great deal actually. The consciousness we bring to the ups and downs of everyday life is has a real impact on others. The principle of the tipping point applies to social consciousness. We need just enough Modern Yogis and a small percentage of us could change the world.

There is an excellent verse in the Bhagavad Gita, which explains the concept of Karma Yoga and gives a prescriptive for good times and bad.

“yoga-yukto vishuddhatma
vijitatma jitendriyaha
sarva-bhutatma-bhutatma
kurvann api na lipyate” (5.7)

Word for word definitions:
yoga-yuktaha—the art of using everything for connecting with spirit;
vishuddha-atma—a being (soul) free of all hallucination or delusion;
vijita-atma—the self is liberated;
jita-indriyaha—having freed sense perception from the influence of selfishness;
sarva—bhuta—to all living entities;
atma-bhuta-atma—compassionate (a soul who is always concerned with
the wellbeing and prosperity of other souls);
kurvan api—although acting and serving in the material world;
na—never;
lipyate—tainted, defiled, adversely affected.

Translation:
The yogi is connecting everything in their life to spirit and using everything in pursuit of spiritual union. The yogi’s obstinate pursuit of clear thinking has freed them from a materialistic perception. Such a person is dear to everyone, and everyone is dear to him. This modern yogi remains in the world working, serving others, but is never entangled or caught up in the spectacle.

The idea is, ‘to be in the world, but not of the world’. The question is, what does this actually look like ? How do we apply this in everyday life? The key to understanding the rich concepts captured by this verse is in the compound expression of the first two words, yoga – yukto.

Beyond the literal meaning of these two words (unify and engage) is a concept very important to understanding yoga philosophy – dialectics. In a literal sense the word dialectic can be understood as, “the space between the words”. It is the idea of paradox and juxtaposition, that one plus one can be greater than two. It is the path way to the realm of the mysterious and the inconceivable. It is the lesson the sage longs to impart to the disciple through koan and parable. Before the Mahabharata war Krishna advises Arjun to kill everyone, but know that nobody dies.

Another example of a dialectic is the seeming contradiction in yoga philosophy between dualism and monism (are we souls separate from God or are we God?) Yoga resolves this in a solution that is difficult if not impossible to conceptualize, ‘simultaneous oneness and difference’. We are all part of the whole, yet the whole remains whole without us. Ouch. That can hurt the old noggin. It can also free it. For spiritual paradox is the mysterious door through which we the sincere seeker must travel.

So the words from the verse above yoga and yukta form a dialectic about being in the world but not of the world. The resolution to the seeming contradiction, between being apart from daily life while being engaged in daily life, is in seeing daily life not as a trap but as an opportunity. Daily life is an opportunity to play a part in a divine scheme. To tap into that and experience the divinity inherent in daily life one simply has to take on divine attributes. Sounds like a reasonable idea. But, here is the kicker. Divine traits are almost always paradoxical. The modern yogi’s job is to upgrade their consciousness by choosing to live in paradox.

So how do you live in paradox ? By practicing self-preservation AND charity, confidence AND humility, bravery AND kindness, ambition AND detachment, and by knowing AND embracing mystery. Living in paradox is the opposite of living in dogma.

Living in paradox means throwing your arms open and running forward into life welcoming and experiencing fearlessly everything it brings your way all the while feeling like a kid running through soap bubbles. Spread the joy.

 

photo license: Fir0002/Flagstaffotos

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