Throughout the ages humans have looked for ways to find peace within. To make sense of the turmoil and distress that we, as individuals suffer. The major religions of today and the history of philosophy attest to this search.
Yoga came out of the rich soil of Indian philosophical thought and enquiry. Indian society directed it efforts towards studying the world within each individual. It did not engage itself with material progress as a means to improve our wellbeing and there are many examples of deliberately shunning material wealth because it was seen to be a pool that could never be filled. To fulfill the desires was an endless quest.
Most of the schools of Indian thought of which there are 6 (Sankhya, Yoga, Nyaya, Vaisheshika, Mimamsa and Vedanta) advocate a path of balance. Shunning the extremes of excess. An excellent example is Buddhism.
‘The Middle Way or Middle Path is the descriptive term that SiddhatthaGotama used to describe the character of the path that he discovered led to liberation. It was coined in the very first teaching that he delivered after his enlightenment. In this sutta – known in English as The Setting in Motion of the Wheel of Dharma – the Buddha describes the middle way as a path of moderation between the extremes of sensual indulgence and self-mortification. This, according to him, was the path of wisdom. The middle path does not mean a mid point in a straight line joining two extremes represented by points. The middle path represents a high middle point, like the apex of a triangle. Thus the high middle point is more value filled than a mere compromise.’Wikapaedia – on Buddhism
Yoga too aligns itself with this approach.
Whilst we might agree intellectually with the statements on the middle path, in practice this is far from easy. If it were easy there would be no need to practice. The reality is much more complex. Consider the smoker who wants to give up in the full knowledge of its harmful effects without being able to take the practical steps.
The quest of Yoga is freedom from suffering and in the Yoga Sutras Patanjali gave us 2 sets of practices to achieve this. He gave us the Kriya Yoga practice (the subject of another talk) and Abhyasa/ Vairagya (the twin pillars). All of us experience this in some aspect of our lives. Our desires, fears and attachments affect us.
Patanjali indicated that the Kriya Yoga practice was best adopted by students of a normal disposition whilst for those of keen application can apply a balance between action and renunciation. For the observer, a practice of asana appears to be a quest of the body but for a Sadhaka we have the means to study the content of our actions and to observe the effects of their outcomes within us.
Asana provides us with a means to align our actions and desires so that an experience of balance is possible.
The term practice implies that we act to improve, however, it should be seen more in the context as a means to experience directly. We aim to study cause and effect in the present moment.
Practice to this audio class at foundation level with a focus on Abhyasa/ Vairagya. A way of being in the mind
Review the class notes prior to the practice
Read and reflect on Geetas lecture in Australia in 2003