When a House Becomes a Hૐ

Yesterday, I wrote that postures are not yoga.  I went so far as to claim that none of Patanjali’s Eight Limbs of Yoga—Yama, Niyama, Posture, Breath, Inward Focus, Concentration, Meditation, Integration—are yoga.  Patanjali called them limbs, they might be better named as tools or techniques of yoga.  They are the tools used, like a hammer, to build the house called yoga.

There’s a major flaw with that idea though.  Yoga can’t be built like a house can be built.  Yoga is revealed through the use of yoga techniques.  It’s easy to build a house.  It’s easy to buy or rent a house.  It’s still just a house.  It takes something more than building, buying or renting for a house to become a home.  It’s easy to take a picture of a house but how do you take a picture of what makes a house a home?

But what do I mean that yoga can’t be built, it can only be revealed?  It’s easy to believe that practicing yoga techniques is supposed to create yoga, union, but that would mean that we’re starting from a place of division.  That imagined division is exactly that, imagined.  It’s only an illusion.  When the illusion is removed, the union that is ever-present is revealed.

What is Yoga?

The difference, in a dictionary, between house and home is that one is a building where people live and the other is a place where people live.  Not very helpful.  We run into a similar problem defining yoga.  Between the Yoga Sutra and the Bhagavad Gita alone it’s easy to find three seemingly different definitions of yoga.

Yoga is the stilling of the modifications/activities of the mind.
Yoga Sutra 1.2  
It is said that evenness of mind is yoga.
Bhagavad Gita 2.48
Yoga is skill in action.
Bhagavad Gita 2.50

The lotus flower is often used as an example of yoga.  It sits peaceful atop the water.  Does that mean to experience yoga is to be blissed out every moment of every day?  No.  It means that when you experience anger, you don’t become angry about the anger; rather, the mind stays undisturbed.  If there’s some action required, you take that action and let the anger go.  If there’s no action required, you take no action and let the anger go.  In both cases you remain like the lotus, unstained by whatever comes and goes but even this image has a flaw.  It suggests that if you can’t let the anger or any experience go that you become stained by that experience.  That’s not accurate.

You, the Real You which Patanjali names draṣṭuḥ, the Seer.  The Real You is never stained or tainted by what is experienced.  The Mind appears to be stained by experience but that is only because the Mind likes to replay memories and imaginations over and over and over.  Stop replaying memories and imaginations and the Mind becomes still (Yoga), then the true nature of the Seer is revealed (Yoga Sutra 1.3).  Sounds a little esoteric, right?  And it sure doesn’t sound like a yoga posture, does it?  Here’s the thing, you experience this almost every day without recognizing it.

Recognizing Hૐ

Every person experiences yoga every day, it’s ordinary and even commonplace.  How is that possible and if it’s true, what’s the point of all these thousands of yoga classes happening every day?  Think back to when you first woke up this morning.  Did you stretch as you got out of bed?  Of course you did, it’s the natural response of the body to the end of a night’s sleep.  Now examine your memory of waking up a little more closely.  Did you stretch?  Did you plan out how to move your arms or legs or did they move without you thinking about it?  You didn’t think about it, your arms and legs just stretched without your direction.

What was your mind like as your body stretched?  Were you thinking about what you needed to accomplish today or was all of your focus on feeling that stretch?  It was more like the second.  Your mind was still, concentrated on just feeling that stretch.  When the stretch was over, there was a lingering stillness and then the thoughts of the day started to show up.  That stillness of mind and that concentration are glimpses of yoga.  Yoga classes are intended to practice that skill.  Popular yoga may have turned that intent into physical exercise but even that can give us glimpses of evenness of mind.  Even that can reveal our true nature.  When you begin to see your Self in this way, then it’s time to wander into the forest and meet your guru.

Jai Bhagwan

OM Tat Sat