Light on Life by BKS Iyengar – Chapter 6: Bliss – The Divine Body – Part 2

This full-on section relates to samadhi. Here are some extracts I selected from this second half of the sixth chapter:

From cosmic intelligence sprouts cosmic energy and consciousness, and from these devolves ego or the sense of self.  From the one root comes duality (which is the ability to separate), from duality comes vibration (which is the pulse of life beginning), from vibration comes invisible manifestation, and from the invisible comes the visible in all its glorious and horrendous diversity and multiplicity. This end product is what we take the world to be–our playground, our paradise, or our hell and our prison. If we misapprehend nature, take it at face value, through ignorance, then it is our prison.

Yoga examines in order to know, like science, but it wants to know in order to penetrate, to integrate, and to reconstruct through practice and detachment the perfection of nature’s original intention. In other words, it wants to reach the root and cut out the intervening turbulence. It does not want to be hoodwinked by nature’s appearance, but to adhere to its original motivation.

So many people approach spiritual growth as if it were a lottery. They hope that some new book or new method, some new insight or teacher will be the lottery ticket that allows them to experience enlightenment. Yoga says no, the knowledge and the effort are all within you. It is as simple and as difficult as learning to discipline our own minds and hearts, our bodies and breath.

When we are in the suspension of breath in the deepest meditation – a spontaneous, as it were, God-willed retention – we enter the black hole, the vortex of nothingness, the void. Yet somehow we survive. The curtain of time, time that inexorably brings death, is parted. This is a state of nonbeing, but a living nonbeing. It is a present devoid of past or future. There is no self, no meditator, no longer even any breather. What comes out of that black hole, that nothingness? Information. What is the information? The truth. What is the truth? Samadhi.

For the beginner, samadhi is an alluring subject. But there are reasons not to get fixated on it. The beginner can only conceive of samadhi as a glorification of the self he knows.

It is said that the meaning of life becomes apparent only in the face of death. At this point in practice the ego dissolves, or rather it gives up its impersonation of the true self.

In meditation, consciousness faces the soul itself. Samadhi is seeing soul face to face. It is not a passive state. It is a dynamic one in which the consciousness remains in a state of equilibria in all circumstances. The disturbances of the mind and emotions fade away, and we are able to see true reality.

After significant effort, a yoga practitioner reaches a state where some are some asana poses are effortless. What we achieve here externally is achieved through samadhi internally. It is an effortless state, where one experiences the grace of the self. This is a state of great bliss and fulfilment.

If anybody says, “I am teaching meditation,” then as a student of yoga I say, “It is rubbish,” because meditation cannot be taught it can only be experienced.

Sabija means ‘with seed’. What this means is that although the experience of bliss is felt, the seeds of desire remain in the ego as future potential. Even after the experience of samadhi, these seeds can sprout again and cause a relapse. The ego has not been entirely purified by the fire of the experience. This particular point on the yogic journey, although so elevated, is one of danger as it can become a wasteland in which the practitioner gets stuck. This state is called manolaya, which means an alert, passive state of mind. But in this context, it implies a complacency with what has been achieved and a tendency to slacken efforts to complete the final step of the journey. The yogi cannot rest on his laurels but must press on to the higher states of samadhi in which even the seeds of desire are burnt out from the ego forever and can never sprout or trouble him again. This is known as nirbija samadhi (seedless) in which the feeling of bliss is not dependent at all, even on a vestigial eager. This is the bliss of the absolute void, of nonbeing transformed into the light of being.

I can assure you that everyone seeks samadhi, and most of us seek shortcuts to get there.

People seek somebody through drugs, alcohol, the danger of extreme sports, the romanticism of music, the beauty of nature, and the passion of sexuality. There are 1000 ways and they all involve the transcendence of the suffering ego in a blissful fusion with an entity much greater than ourselves.

Change leads to disappointment if it is not sustained. Transformation is sustained change, and it is achieved through practice.

Dreams of the divine union, however high their aspirations, contain an element of fantasy. They may not be sustainable. We must have spiritual aspiration not spiritual pretension.

Yoga is solid. It is the path I know, the path I trod, the path I teach. Everyone desires relief from both the restrictions of personality and its impermanence. Everyone desires samadhi. From the dawn of his history, man has sought dangerous, shoddy shortcuts as well as noble ones. Called the hard, sustained progress of yoga a long cut if you will, but if it is a long cut, then so is the flight of an arrow.

 

 

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Light on Life by BKS Iyengar – Chapter 6: Bliss – The Divine Body – Part 1

Selected extracts from the first half of the sixth chapter:

Let us therefore sift through everything, says yoga, every component of a human being that we can find and identify–our bodies, breath, energy, sickness and health, brain and anger, and pride in our power and possessions. Above all, yoga says, let us examine this mysterious “I”, ever present and conscious of itself, but invisible in the mirror or on any photograph.

What yoga means by ignorance can perhaps be best translated as nescience, which simply means not knowing. So to Hindus, the archenemy is a state of not knowing. What don’t we know when we are ignorant?  The answer is this: you don’t know what is real and what is not real. You don’t know what is enduring and what is perishable. You don’t know who you are and who you are not. Your  whole world is upside down because you take the artefacts in your living room to be more real than the unity that connects us all, more real than the relations and obligations that unite us all.  Perceiving the links and associations that bind the cosmos in a seamless whole is the object of yoga’s journey of discovery.

We are not required simply to adjust our vision, but to turn it inside out as well as outside in, a complete reversal. It means that ultimate truth is inconceivable in normal consciousness.

Only a life built on spiritual values (dharma) is based firmly in truth and will stand up to the shocks of life.

It is this the egoic “me” that does not want to die. This impersonation of soul by ego is at the base of all human woes, and this is the root of avidya (ignorance).

No lovers, servants, riches, cars, houses, or public acclaim can salve the wound of a dysfunctional relationship with our origin. Know your father, said Lord Jesus. By this statement he was directly addressing the problem of not knowing (avidya).

We all know the phrase concerning death: you can’t take it with you. This is true. I cannot take my ego beyond the grave, and I certainly can’t take my car, my land, or my bank account.

There is nothing wrong with shedding tears for ones we love, but we must know for whom they are shared–for the loss of those who remain and not for those who have departed.

We conclude that we must perpetuate ego at all costs, through dynasties, fame, great buildings, and all immortality projects aimed at cheating the grim reaper. What rubbish, says yoga.

Look for the light. Ego is not the source of light. Consciousness transmits the divine light of origin, of the soul. But it is like the moon; it reflects the light of the sun. It has no light of its own. Find the sun, says yoga, discover the soul. That is what Hatha Yoga means.

Discover what does not die, and the illusion of death is unmasked. That is the conquest of death.

We have to keep on questioning ourselves, or else transformation will not take place. Advance with faith, yes, but always call yourself into question. Where there is pride there is always ignorance.

Inside the microcosm of the individual exists the macrocosm of the universe.

The eyes are the window of the brain, the years are the window of the soul. This is contrary to popular wisdom, but when the senses are withdrawn (pratyahara) this is the true experience.

When we can play with the elements within our own bodies, with their own renewal and disproportion and rebalancing, then we are aware of nature at a level that is not apprehend double in the normal way it is supranatural, as normal consciousness is blind to it.

Light on Life by BKS Iyengar – Chapter 5: Wisdom – The Intellectual Body – Part 1

Selected extracts from the first half of the fifth chapter:

Our individual intelligence, though an essential rudder to guide us, is merely a puny offshoot of cosmic intelligence, which is the organising system of the universe. This intelligence is everywhere and like air we constantly bathe in it and imbibe it.

Intelligence is the operating system of cosmic awareness.

You can force a piano up three flights of stairs but you cannot force the febrile human mind to be still. All you can do is train it to be vigilant toward all that disturbs its equilibrium.

Memory for past, imagination for future. Squashed between the two,  we lose the ability to use direct perception on what really is–i.e. now, the present.

‘If it feels good, do it’  is not a maxim to be trusted in the long run. All philosophies recognise that a pleasure seeker will end up as a pain finder. The ancient Greeks said that moderation was the greatest virtue.

When awareness is linked to intelligence we are able to see with absolute honesty. When brain and body are moving in harmony there is integrity.

A cleansed memory is one that does not contain undigested emotions from the unconscious but that deals with feelings in the present as they arise.

If one feels heavy and dull after sleep then that sleep has been tamasic. Disturbed, agitated sleep is rajasic.  Sleep that brings lightness, brightness, and freshness is sattvic.

Peaceful deep sleep, experienced while alert and awake, is samadhi. When the mind is controlled and still, what remains is the soul.  The absence of ego in the state of sleep is akin to samadhi,  but it is dull and without awareness. Samadhi  is the  egolessness of sleep combined with the vibrancy of intelligence.

If we feed our minds on violent images, thoughts, and words, our unconscious will regurgitate them in disturbed dreams. Just as right imagination opens the creative mind, right sleep exhilarates the mind and brings alertness.

Often as students do savasana  or attempt meditation they drift into an agreeable torpor, as if they were swaddled in cotton wool. This is not the prelude to samadhi but to sleep.

Good sleep makes consciousness brilliant. Poor sleep leaves it tarnished.

We say,  “If only I’d known then what I know now.” But what we know now does not seem to stop this from making more mistakes. The yogic blueprint says that right knowledge and erroneous knowledge are two modifications, or states, of consciousness. By the practice of yoga we can lessen and eradicate misperception and wrong knowledge and again accurate perception and right knowledge.

An opinion is yesterday’s right or wrong knowledge warmed up and re-served  for today’s situation. So opinions are rooted in the past and our examination of memory has shown us that the past can be a minefield.

When what is wrong is discarded what is left must be correct. As intelligence expands in consciousness then ego and mind contract to their proper proportions. They no longer rule the roost but serve intelligence.

We are seeking to cultivate wisdom, to transform mental dexterity or cleverness, which all people possess in some degree, into the penetrating clear light of wisdom.