Long over due, I'd like to commemorate the passion, beauty and strength that is B.K.S. Iyengar, who passed away last Wednesday. In many ways through his books and eloquent thoughts on yoga he was a dear teacher to me although I never personally met him. He will be missed and no doubt the dedicated energy of his sādhāna will carry on and carry us on. Thank you, Mr. Iyengar. Thank you for the paving the way. Your light continues to burn bright within all who you have touched.
I love the following story. If we followed this example there would be much healing in the world. The best part is we don't have to wait. We can start today. I think even recent news guides us that one just never knows what pain is held inside someone.
There is an old story of a farmer who was proud of the fruits produced in his orchard. There was one diseased tree that never produced anything of value but merely took up space in the orchard. He tried everything, but couldn't get rid of that tree. He tried cutting it down, but it would grow again from a shoot. He tried poisoning it, but it never quite died. Then one day, following someone's advice, he planted many healthy trees around it. They were vigorous and healthy trees that suited the environment well. Soon it was difficult to see where that diseased tree was amongst them. Gradually those beneficial healthy trees took over the entire space and when the farmer looked for his old adversary, that diseased tree couldn't be found; it had become healthy and on its branches were growing crops of beautiful fruits.
(B.K.S. Iyengar, from Core of the Yoga Sutras)
"What is to give light must first endure burning"
Sādhanā is often referred to as spiritual practice. However, much more is intertwined in the term and has been one of the main themes of the course here in Mysore this summer. In another light, sādhanā is our own masterpiece we create to connect to the Divine. This in turn takes consistent effort and determination and by no means comes easy and at the same time is a worthwhile endeavor that gives more everlasting happiness and fulfillment than we could ever imagine, but first, there is a climb. Each step reaching us closer to the goal while playing with the paradox of detachment.
Sādhanā is also viewed as an ego transcending practice. The goal being liberation and freedom from bondage (samāra). The steps take daily effort where in my case includes regular asana practice, pranayama, and self study and also evening japa, prayer and/or chanting. Tapas (the effort to achieve self-realization) comes in those days where the warmth and comfort of the bed tells us better to stay put but instead we throw the covers off and take the necessary steps toward the mat. Tapas can also be viewed as discipline, an important ingredient in cultivating one's sādhanā.
The practitioner is referred to as a sādhaka, an aspirant. One who skillfully applies the learned rituals and practices, uniting body, mind and soul toward the spiritual goal. A sādhaka is dutifully committed and enthusiastic, though that can wax and wane in the beginning, and doubt part of the path for some, overtime the wavering ceases as the sādhanā strengthens and becomes a way of life. The important part being the intention behind it, something R. Sharath Jois has stressed time and time again this summer. Simply bending the body and/or going through the motions of ritual with no internal reflection often bring fruitless results. Another word for this heart/mind intention is bhāvanā. Bhāvanā can be thought in terms of planting seeds. Our sādhāna makes for fertile ground but what seeds will we plant?
"The practice of yoga, as a whole, is a profound science of internal purification which leads practitioners very gradually to the realization of the non-difference between the jīvātma, or indwelling Self of the individual, and the paramātma, or Universal Self. For this to occur, a proper intention and direction of energies needs to be established from the outset of a practice; in Sanskrit, this is known as 'bhāvana.'"
(Sri K. Pattabhi Jois, Sūryanamaskāra)
The thirst needs to be there. Yes, there may be days we feel apathetic; however, the beauty of our sādhāna is what it is pointing us to. This keeps it alive. It must stay alive within us. We must fan the flames. Each day carving out our masterpiece of transformation. The beauty being, no amount of effort is wasted. Each step, leading toward illumination.
It's hard to believe our trip here to Mysore is already more than half way over. Like I always say, coming here feels like being in a time warp. The days go by at rapid pace and yet a deep sense of feeling at home in the practice sink in, as if I've been here for much longer. It comes at no surprise and yet it always startles me in a way. The monsoon rains have given opportunity for internal reflection and is indicative of my time here. There are periods of darkness within, a pouring out, a purging as one could say, and then the clouds part, the sun shines, drying up all that was washed away. To then see things in a new light, a new perspective. I feel filled up. I also have sense of what new areas that are present for new growth. Ever endless. An exciting opportunity to peel new layers of existence to the surface. It must not go wasted.