Please check out my yoga lesson and meditation for John 1:35-42! It is a part of a long term project to help others enjoy Catholic yoga. 🙂
God bless and peace be with you!
Please check out my yoga lesson and meditation for John 1:35-42! It is a part of a long term project to help others enjoy Catholic yoga. 🙂
God bless and peace be with you!
“The whole insight that the purusha, the Cosmic Lord- who is similar to the Logos in Christianity… because in the notion of the purusha the Hindu tradition… Hindu mystics… have come to the realization that deep within the unity- and the goal of the unity, is to reach the personal dimension of the Godhead, the purusha. And there is the… scattered in the Upanishads and in the Vedas… but articulated very clearly in the Svetasvatara Upanishad is the statement- and this is found many times in the Upanishads… ‘I know Him, that Great Person (purusha)of the color of the sun, beyond the darkness. It is only in knowing Him, the purusha, the Cosmic Lord, that one passes beyond death.. and there’s no other way to Salvation.’ So they come to that insight. That you have to go through the purusha, the Logos…to get to the Godhead.
The final integration is beyond even unity. It’s not just a question of experiencing the unity, the non-duality..and some mystics make the mistake that when they reach unity, they think that’s it. But the unity has a nature, a dynamic character to it..and that is what the purusha is leading us to. And that makes sense of our human experience because all our experience is personal.”
– Wayne Teasdale
The Christmas season is here, and what better time to celebrate the Mother of God? As we prepare to celebrate the birth of Christ, we can imagine how Mother Mary must have been so eagerly anticipating her son. She might have been feeling all types of emotions that new mothers-to-be feel. All the physical, emotional, and spiritual sensations that accompany pregnancy would have been changing Mary’s whole life. It was a wonderful and (no doubt) consuming time of change.
To celebrate this special time of year, I’d like to post a printable holy card picturing Mother Mary. There is a devotional chant included. The Maria Archana is from the Benedictines of Shantivanam Ashram in India. If you’d like to print the card, you may; then simply fold it. The image will be on one side and the chant on the back side.
Click on the image to enlarge it, then print any size you wish. The original size was holy card size.
The chant can be found here: https://soundcloud.com/maranathayoga/shantivanam-monks-maria-archana
God bless and peace be with you!
“The word nirapekṣa means not being affected by anything material and remaining fixed in the service of the Lord.” – Śrīla Bhaktisiddhānta Sarasvatī Ṭhākura
This evening I was reading about the yogic concept of nirapekṣa when I noticed- everything about this practice resonates with Christ’s essential teachings: “Be in this world but not of it.” We know this, but how do we live that way; how do we manifest it? How do we arrive there? As Christians, we not only seek to remove the materialistic nonsense of the world, but to replace it with the love of God. Nirapekṣa helps us to understand the steps taken on this path.
A person who is ideally engaged in service of the Lord is not affected by positive or negative attention. Such a person can hold a consistent, even-keel temperament when given affection, and also if he or she is criticized. How many times in a day do we feel happy or sad, riding on the random opinions of others?
Jesus was the ultimate embodiment of loving detachment in devotional service. In him, we have everything we need to learn the way of love. Everything he did was for God the Father. No matter how good or bad things got, everything was for the Father. Christ was given both group adulation and individual adulation, but remained perfectly centered in his love and devotion, his bhakti. Praise did not sway him. He was publicly praised in Jerusalem by throngs people waving palm branches, yet he rode into town on a borrowed donkey, totally humble. But even in his humility, he accepted the love. Part of being a loving person is accepting love. Jesus was also given individual adulation- when his feet were washed by the woman who wanted to offer loving service to him. And these things he accepted. He didn’t care what it might have looked like to others or what the small minded people might say. Jesus was the human embodiment of love, so he allowed others to love him, and he loved them all in return. Love is a cycle, a flow, and Jesus understood this and embodied this.
Nirapekṣa means to become callous to the “objectives of the material world.” Loving and serving the Lord is our primary spiritual goal. Sometimes this conflicts with popular opinions. Sometimes it might even appear to be callous. But it is not; it is simply having eyes set a little higher than the horizon. It means having different motivators and seeking a different outcome, one that is eternal. In Matthew 8:21-22, a disciple wants to follow Christ, but he wants to bury his father first. Jesus says no! Jesus says, “Follow me, and let the dead bury their own dead.” Think of how that disciple might have felt. It seems somewhat callous to us maybe. Jesus is asking this person to set aside his culture, his sentimentality, his most pure and ingrained worldly attachments. That is an example of what it means to understand nirapekṣa at a very deep level.
1 John 2:15-17:
“Do not love the world or the things in the world. The love of the Father is not in those who love the world; for all that is in the world—the desire of the flesh, the desire of the eyes, the pride in riches—comes not from the Father but from the world. And the world and its desire are passing away, but those who do the will of God live forever.”
If we want to progress on the spiritual path, we must be prepared to leave everything behind and follow Christ. He has told us that it is very difficult for the rich to enter into the kingdom. He told us that he did not even have a place to call his own: “Foxes have dens and birds have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lay his head.” In Jesus’ time this was a way of living also appreciated by the cynics. They renounced everything and lived in poverty, seeing anti-materialism as the ideal way to advance philosophically. For Jesus, poverty was a way to set everything physically tangible aside and serve only the Lord God. And this is what he asked of us.
Nirapekṣa means redirecting your moral compass. Christ had a totally different moral compass than the elders of his faith had at the time. Since neither praise nor blame affected him, his actions were not dictated by the people of the material world- the saducees, the pharisees… the crowds…even by popular opinion. If he felt something was morally wrong, he said so. The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath. You don’t need ritual bath, what is unclean comes from within. He gave us many redirections. Christ showed us how to remain calm and centered in what is right, not what the material world has decided is right. Jesus taught us discernment. This way of being is the product of wisdom, humility, renunciation, dedication, and a love for God which is so all consuming it springs from one’s heart spontaneously.
And so today we can pray for God’s mercy, that through His mercy our material desires might subside, so we can come to experience the world with a more Christ-like sensibility and wisdom.
God bless and peace be with you!
“I often asked myself why God had preferences, why all souls did not receive an equal measure of grace. I was filled with wonder when I saw extraordinary favours showered on great sinners like St. Paul, St. Augustine, St. Mary Magdalen, and many others, whom He forced, so to speak, to receive His grace. In reading the lives of the Saints I was surprised to see that there were certain privileged souls, whom Our Lord favoured from the cradle to the grave, allowing no obstacle in their path which might keep them from mounting towards Him, permitting no sin to soil the spotless brightness of their baptismal robe. And again it puzzled me why so many poor savages should die without having even heard the name of God.
I understood this also, that God’s Love is made manifest as well in a simple soul which does not resist His grace as in one more highly endowed. In fact, the characteristic of love being self-abasement, if all souls resembled the holy Doctors who have illuminated the Church, it seems that God in coming to them would not stoop low enough. But He has created the little child, who knows nothing and can but utter feeble cries, and the poor savage who has only the natural law to guide him, and it is to their hearts that He deigns to stoop. These are the field flowers whose simplicity charms Him; and by His condescension to them Our Saviour shows His infinite greatness. As the sun shines both on the cedar and on the floweret, so the Divine Sun illumines every soul, great and small, and all correspond to His care.”
My friend, Gaura Das, posted this great exchange between a Vaishnava disciple and his spiritual master, Śrīla Prabhupāda. They are discussing Friedrich Nietzsche. I find it extremely interesting to see a bhakti yoga perspective on this great philosopher. As I was reading it, I could not read fast enough! My eyes were racing to take it all in! Many thanks to Gaura Das also for granting permission for me to repost. While this has nothing specifically to do with Catholic yoga, I share it because it is just a very interesting read. I like how the disciple explains Nietzsche by saying, “When the philosopher has rid himself of resentment and envy, he can even embrace his enemies with a kind of Christian love.” This understanding is often neglected when people speak of Nietzsche.
Of course I disagree with the statement about hatha yoga. 🙂
Srila Prabhupada Vs. Nietzsche
Friedrich Nietzsche (1844–1900) was a German philosopher and poet whose work has greatly influenced modern thinkers. Perceiving that traditional Christian values had lost their influence in society, he coined the phrase “God is dead.” His concept of the Ūbermensch, or “superman,” was misinterpreted by the Nazis to try to justify their aggression. Here Śrīla Prabhupāda explains who the Ūbermensch really is.
Disciple: Schopenhauer spoke of the “blind will” of the individual as being the basic propelling force that keeps the soul tied to material existence, to transmigration from body to body. Nietzsche, on the other hand, spoke of der Wille zur Macht, the “will to power,” which is a different kind of will. This will is not used for subjugating others but for mastering one’s lower self. It is characterized by self-control and an interest in art and philosophy. Most people are envious of others, but it is the duty of the noble man, the philosopher, to transcend this envy by sheer willpower. In Nietzsche’s own words, the philosopher “shakes off with one shrug much vermin that would have buried itself deep in others.” When the philosopher has rid himself of resentment and envy, he can even embrace his enemies with a kind of Christian love.
Śrīla Prabhupāda: This is called spiritual power. Envy is a symptom of conditioned life. In the Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam it is stated that the neophyte who wants to understand the Vedic literatures should not be envious. In this material world, everyone is envious. People are even envious of God and His instructions. Consequently people do not like to accept Kṛṣṇa’s instructions. Although Kṛṣṇa is the Supreme Personality of Godhead and is accepted as such by all the ācāryas, there are nonetheless foolish men called mūḍhas who either reject Kṛṣṇa’s instructions or try to screw out some contrary meaning from them. This envy is symptomatic of conditioned souls. Unless we are liberated from conditioned life, we will remain confused under the influence of the external material energy. Until we come to the spiritual platform, there is no possibility of escaping from envy and pride by so-called willpower. A person in the transcendental (brahma-bhūta) stage is described in the Bhagavad-gītā [18.54] as samaḥ sarveṣu bhūteṣu: He can look at everyone with the same spiritual understanding.
Disciple: Nietzsche calls the man who possesses spiritual power the Ūbermensch, a word meaning literally “above-man” and often translated as “superman.” The Ūbermensch is totally self-controlled, unafraid of death, simple, aware, and self-reliant. He is so powerful that he can change the lives of others simply on contact. Nietzsche never referred to any historical person as the Ūbermensch, nor did he consider himself such.
Śrīla Prabhupāda: We accept the guru as the genuine superman because he is worshiped like God and can put one in touch with God and His grace. Yasya prasādād bhagavat-prasādaḥ: “By the mercy of the guru one receives the mercy of the Supreme Personality of Godhead.” Caitanya Mahāprabhu also accepts this: guru-kṛṣṇa-prasāde pāya bhakti-latā-bīja: “By the mercy of Kṛṣṇa and the guru one receives information about spiritual life so that he can return home, back to Godhead.” Śrī Caitanya Mahaprabhu requested everyone to become gurus, or supermen. The superman distributes transcendental knowledge strictly according to the authorized version he has received from his superior. This is called paramparā, the disciplic succession. One superman delivers this supreme knowledge to another superman, and this knowledge was originally delivered by God Himself.
Disciple: In Thus Spake Zarathustra, Nietzsche concludes that all men want power. At the top of this hierarchy in the quest for power is the Ūbermensch. Thus the Ūbermensch would be one who has conquered his passions and attained all good qualifications. His actions are creative, and he does not envy others. He is constantly aware that death is always present, and he is so superior to others that he is almost like God in the world.
Śrīla Prabhupāda: In Sanskrit the real Ūbermensch or superman is called a svāmī or gosvāmī, who is described by Rūpa Gosvāmī as one who can control his words, mind, anger, tongue, belly, and genitals. These are the six forces that drive men to commit sinful activities. A gosvāmī can control these forces, especially the genitals, belly, and tongue, which are very hard to control. Bhaktivinoda Ṭhākura says, tā’ra madhye jihvā ati-lobhamaya sudurmati: The force of the tongue is very great, and for its gratification we create many artificial edibles. Nonsensical habits like smoking, drinking, and meat-eating have entered society simply due to the urges of the tongue. Actually, there is no need for these things. A person does not die simply because he cannot smoke, eat meat, or drink liquor. Rather, without these indulgences he can elevate himself to the highest platform. It is therefore said that one who can control the tongue can control the urges of the other senses also. One who can control all the senses—beginning with the tongue—is called a gosvāmī, or, as Nietzsche would say, the Ūbermensch. But this is impossible for an ordinary man.
Disciple: Nietzsche believed that everyone has a “will to power,” but that the weak seek power vainly. For instance, in his will to power, Hitler sought to subjugate as much of the world as possible, but he was ultimately unsuccessful, and he brought disaster upon himself and Germany. Instead of trying to conquer himself, he attempted to conquer others, and this is the will to power misdirected or misinterpreted.
Śrīla Prabhupāda: Men like Hitler are not able to control the force of anger. A king or national leader has to use anger properly. Narottama Dāsa Ṭhākura says that we should control our powers and apply them in the proper cases. We may become angry, but our anger must be controlled. For example, although Caitanya Mahāprabhu taught that we should be very submissive—humbler than the grass and more tolerant than a tree—He became very angry upon seeing His dear devotee Nityānanda Prabhu hurt by Jāgai and Mādhāi. Everything can be properly utilized in the service of Kṛṣṇa, but not for personal aggrandizement. In the material world, everyone is certainly after power, but the real superman is not after power for himself. He himself is a mendicant, a sannyāsī, but he acquires power for the service of the Lord. For instance, I came to America not to acquire material power but to distribute Kṛṣṇa consciousness. By the grace of Kṛṣṇa, all facilities have been afforded, and now, from the material point of view, I have become somewhat powerful. But this is not for my personal sense gratification; it is all for spreading Kṛṣṇa consciousness. The conclusion is that power for Kṛṣṇa’s service is very valuable, but power for our own sense gratification is condemned.
Disciple: Hitler twisted Nietzsche’s philosophy, claiming that he was the Ūbermensch, although Nietzsche clearly says that the Ūbermensch is not intent on subjugating others but on subjugating his own passions. Such a superman is beyond good and evil and is not subject to mundane dualities.
Śrīla Prabhupāda: Yes, because the superman acts on behalf of God, he is transcendental. At the beginning of the Bhagavad-gītā, Arjuna was thinking like an ordinary person in his reluctance to fight. From the material point of view, nonviolence is a good qualification. Arjuna was excusing his enemies, although they had insulted him and his wife and usurped his kingdom. He pleaded before Kṛṣṇa that it would be better to let them enjoy his kingdom—”I am not going to fight.” Materially this appeared very laudable, but spiritually it was not, because Kṛṣṇa wanted him to fight. Finally Arjuna carried out Kṛṣṇa’s order and fought. Clearly, this kind of fighting was not for personal aggrandizement but for the service of Kṛṣṇa. So by using his power for the service of the Lord, Arjuna became a superman.
Disciple: In his writings on religion, Nietzsche expressed a dislike for the nihilism of the Buddhists and the caste system of the Hindus, especially the Hindu treatment of the untouchables.
Śrīla Prabhupāda: That is a later concoction by the caste Hindus. The true Vedic religion does not speak of untouchables. Caitanya Mahāprabhu Himself demonstrated His system by accepting so-called untouchables like Haridāsa Ṭhākura, who was born in a Muslim family. Although Haridāsa Ṭhākura was not accepted by Hindu society, Caitanya Mahāprabhu personally indicated that he was most exalted. Haridāsa Ṭhākura would not enter the temple of Lord Jagannātha because he did not want to create a commotion, but Caitanya Mahāprabhu Himself came to see Haridāsa every day. It is a basic principle of the Vedic religion that one should not be envious of anyone. Kṛṣṇa Himself says in Bhagavad-gītā [9.32]:
māṁ hi pārtha vyapāśritya ye ‘pi syuḥ pāpa-yonayaḥ
striyo vaiśyās tathā śūdrās te ‘pi yānti parāṁ gatim
“O son of Pṛthā, those who take shelter in Me—though they be lowborn, women, vaiśyas, or śūdras—can approach the supreme destination.” So despite birth in a lower family, if one is a devotee he is eligible to return home, back to Godhead. The śāstras do not speak of untouchables. Everyone is eligible to practice Kṛṣṇa consciousness and return to Godhead, provided the necessary spiritual qualifications are there.
Disciple: Nietzsche believed that by stressing the value of going to the transcendental world, a person would come to resent this world. He therefore personally rejected all formal religions.
Śrīla Prabhupāda: This material world is described as a place of suffering (duḥkhālayam aśāśvatam). We do not know whether Nietzsche realized this or not, but if one actually understands the soul, he can realize that this material world is a place of suffering. Being part and parcel of God, the soul has the same qualities possessed by God. God is sac-cid-ānanda-vigraha, eternal, full of knowledge and bliss, and the living entities in the spiritual world have the same nature. But in material life their eternality, knowledge, and bliss are absent. It is therefore better that we learn to detest material existence and try to give it up (paraṁ dṛṣṭvā nivartate). The Vedas enjoin that we understand the spiritual world and try to return there (tamasi mā jyotir gama). The spiritual world is the kingdom of light, and this material world is the kingdom of darkness. The sooner we learn to avoid the world of darkness and return to the kingdom of light, the better it will be for us.
Disciple: Nietzsche was greatly influenced by the Greeks, and he was astounded that out of so few men, so many great individuals emerged. He attributed this to their struggling with their evil instincts, and he thought that even today, with the help of favorable measures, great individuals might be reared who would surpass all others. Thus Nietzsche believed that mankind ought to be constantly striving to produce great men—this and nothing else is man’s duty.
Śrīla Prabhupāda: Everyone is trying to be a great man, but one’s greatness is genuine when he becomes God realized. The word veda means “knowledge,” and a person is great when he is conversant with the lessons of the Vedas. The object of knowledge, as described by Bhagavad-gītā, is God or the self. There are different methods for self-realization. However, since every individual is part and parcel of God, if one realizes God, he automatically realizes himself. God is compared to the sun. If the sun is out, we can see everything very clearly. Similarly, in the Vedas it is said, yasmin vijñāte sarvam evaṁ vijñātaṁbhavati (Muṇḍaka Upaniṣad 1.3): “By understanding God, we understand all other things.” Then we automatically become jolly (brahma-bhūtaḥ prasannātmā). The word prasannātmā means “jolly.” At that time we can see that everyone is exactly like ourselves (samaḥ sarveṣu-bhūteṣu) because everyone is part and parcel of the Supreme Lord. At this point, real service to the Lord begins, and we attain the platform of knowledge, bliss, and eternity.
Disciple: Nietzsche was emphatic in stating that there has never yet been a superman. He writes, “All too similar are men to each other. Verily even the greatest I found all too human.” Nor does the superman evolve in the Darwinian sense. Nietzsche thought the Ūbermensch a possibility at present if man uses all his spiritual and physical energies. He wrote, “Dead are all the gods; now do we desire the superman to live.” But how is the Ūbermensch possible without an object for his spiritual energies?
Śrīla Prabhupāda: We become supermen if we engage in the service of the Supreme Person. The Supreme Being is a person, and the superman is also a person. Nityo nityānāṁ cetanaś cetanānām: “God is the chief among all personalities.” The superman has no other business than carrying out the orders of the Supreme Being. Kṛṣṇa, or God, wants to make everyone a superman. He therefore orders, sarva-dharmān parityajya mām ekaṁ śaraṇaṁ vraja: “Give up everything and simply surrender to Me.” [Bhagavad-gītā 18.66] If we can understand and follow this instruction, we are supermen. The ordinary man thinks, “I have my independence and can do something myself. Why should I surrender?” However, as soon as he realizes that his only duty is to surrender to Kṛṣṇa, that he has no other duty in this material world, he becomes the superman. This consciousness is attained after many, many births (bahūnāṁ janmanām ante). After many lifetimes, when one actually attains full knowledge of Kṛṣṇa, he surrenders unto Him. As soon as he surrenders, he becomes the superman.
Disciple: Nietzsche would reject dependence on anything exterior to the superman himself. In other words, he would reject “props.” But isn’t it impossible for a man to elevate himself to that platform without depending on the Supreme Lord?
Śrīla Prabhupāda: Of course, and therefore Kṛṣṇa says, “Depend upon Me.” You have to be dependent, and if you do not depend on Kṛṣṇa, you have to depend on the dictations of māyā, illusion. There are many philosophers and politicians who depend on others or on their own whimsical ideas, but we should depend on the perfect instructions of God. The fact is that every living being is dependent; he cannot be independent. If he voluntarily depends on the instructions of God, he becomes the genuine superman, or Ūbermensch.
Disciple: Nietzsche’s superman appears to resemble the haṭha-yogī, who elevates himself by his own efforts seemingly independent of God.
Śrīla Prabhupāda: Yes, seemingly. As soon as a haṭha-yogī gets some extraordinary mystic powers, he thinks that he has become God. This is another mistake, since no one can become God. A yogī may attain some mystical powers by practice or by the favor of the Lord, but these powers are not sufficient to enable him to become God. There are many who think that through meditation or haṭha-yoga it is possible to become equal to God, but this is another illusion, another dictation of māyā. Māyā is always saying, “Why depend on God? You can become God yourself.”
Disciple: Independence seems to be central to Nietzsche’s philosophy. In a sense, his superman is somewhat like Hiraṇyakaśipu, who performed so many penances to gain immortality and who made the demigods tremble to see his austerities.
Śrīla Prabhupāda: Yes, and ultimately he was outwitted by the Supreme Himself. Actually, it is not good to struggle for material power and control over others. If one becomes a devout servant of God, he becomes the superman automatically and acquires many sincere followers. One does not have to undergo severe austerities; everything can be mastered in one stroke.
Disciple: And what of sense control?
Śrīla Prabhupāda: If one becomes a devotee of the Supreme Lord, he controls his senses automatically, but he never thinks that he has become God, or the supreme controller.
Disciple: One last point on Nietzsche. He believed in what is called eternal recurrence—that is, after this universe has been destroyed, it will be repeated again after many eons.
Śrīla Prabhupāda: In the Bhagavad-gītā it is stated, bhūtvā bhūtvā pralīyate: “This material world is created at a certain point, maintained for a certain period, and then destroyed.” [Bhagavad-gītā 8.19] This material world is created for the conditioned soul, who is put here in order to learn his position as the eternal servant of God. Lord Brahmā, the first created being in the universe, is given the Vedic instructions, and he distributes them through the disciplic succession, which descends from Brahmā to Nārada, from Nārada to Vyāsadeva, from Vyāsadeva to Śukadeva Gosvāmī, and so on. These instructions enjoin the conditioned soul to return home, back to Godhead. If the conditioned soul rejects these instructions, he remains in the material world until it is annihilated. At that time he remains in an unconscious state, just like a child within the womb of his mother. In due course of time his consciousness revives, and he again takes birth. The point is that anyone can take advantage of the Vedic instructions, become a superman or Ūbermensch, and go back to Godhead. Unfortunately, the conditioned living entities are so attached to the material world that they repeatedly want to take up material bodies. In this way history actually repeats itself, and there is again creation, maintenance, and
“Again Jesus left the district of Tyre
and went by way of Sidon to the Sea of Galilee,
into the district of the Decapolis.”
It was late summer, 29 AD. Jesus and the 12 had ventured to Tyre for the first time, into a region populated by gentiles, in order that Christ might find some peace and quiet which had eluded him in Galilee. He and the disciples found a house upon their arrival in which to stay. This was customary. However, their dress and demeanor somewhat gave them away, and, before long, Jesus and the disciples were recognized. They did not enjoy much respite.
They proceeded to leave Tyre and headed south, via the coastal route, toward Sidon. They may have paused to take in the last views of the mediterranean sea, its deep blue waters speckled with the bobbing, white sails of distant ships. Their path then turned eastward and pressed on, through the lush wooded outskirts of Sidon. The rich and diverse landscape included a multitude of fruit trees, by now heavy laden with a wide variety of delicious August fruits. The group continued up along the steep cliffs, through the unpopulated mountainside, and eventually arrived at the Sea of Galilee.
“And people brought to him a deaf man who had a speech impediment
and begged him to lay his hand on him.
He took him off by himself away from the crowd.
He put his finger into the man’s ears
and, spitting, touched his tongue;
then he looked up to heaven and groaned, and said to him,
‘Ephphatha!”— that is, “Be opened!’ —
And immediately the man’s ears were opened,
his speech impediment was removed,
and he spoke plainly.”
This miracle, in ways, really sheds light on Christ’s whole message to us. Fear not, judge not, and instead- love. Love others, love God, and open up. Open the heart. Ephphatha … ef-fath-ah’. And isn’t that also the message of yoga? We can add to the list, also. Open the mind and intelligence. Open the ears. Open the actions and reactions. Open the palm, the chest, the pelvis, the bottoms of the feet. And always remain open to the breath.
Guruji Iyengar tells us, “In asana and pranayama practice, we should have the impression we are working on the outer to get closer to the inner reality of our existence. This is true. We work from the periphery to the core…. However, we must not forget that the innermost part of our being is also trying to help us. It wants to come out to the surface and express itself. ” It is an opening.
The area which Jesus healed in this impaired man is the same area which can serve to heal us in our practice. It is a very potent area of the physical and spiritual body. We can even visualize Jesus healing this man as we employ the techniques of pranayama which assist us in our journey.
One of the eight limbs of yoga practice is called pratyahara, the withdrawal of the senses. It refers to intentionally stilling the five senses so our attention is purified and single. We then take this attention inward. The ears lead this journey. Sound is primary: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God and the Word was God.” Our job, then, is surrender- allowing our ears, our hearing, to guide the journey inward. First we observe what is called struck sound, the result of vibration. The next layer of sound is unstruck sound, which is very soft and subtle. Delving deeper, sound becomes nearly dreamlike, more perception than quantitative. And finally, there is the sound of the Divine- Logos, Christ Himself. The Word.
As we sit in observation of the breath, physiological changes are observable. As we inhale, our heart rate and blood pressure increase slightly. We feel this in the ear canal which is so closely tied to the sinuses. The pressure accumulates toward the base of the inner ear, on to the Eustachian tubes, and then to the root of the tongue. It is to this area, at the back of the mouth cavity, that we direct the flow of our inner awareness. We follow the movement created through the breath and felt through the blood pressure. With each breath we draw our attention deeper inward: from inner ear to Eustachian tubes, inward still more to the root of the tongue. This inward journey assists the practice of pratyahara. The other senses are soon to follow. There is a quieting. This is why the ears are called the Corridors to Heaven. And as Guruji Iyengar said, “Pranayama is done with the ears!”
As we practice this quieting technique, it is important to keep the root of the tongue soft, the skin on the back of the neck free from tension, and the eyes with lids closed top to bottom, relaxed and releasing down and inwards, with the outer eyes releasing toward the temples.
This area from the base of the ears to the tongue root- the area Jesus healed on the deaf man- is the doorway of satya/truth. Guruji Iyengar said, “An opening is like a doorway, and there is no such thing as a doorway you can only go through one way.” We must remain aware what we allow in our listening and in our speech. We can then also “speak plainly.” Imagine being the man in the gospel. The first words he heard in his lifetime were those from Our Savior!
“He ordered them not to tell anyone.
But the more he ordered them not to,
the more they proclaimed it.
They were exceedingly astonished and they said,
‘He has done all things well.
He makes the deaf hear and the mute speak.’ ”
It’s unclear who “they” are, but they are not listening to Jesus’ wishes in this part of the gospel. It’s hard to imagine from our perspective not honoring Christ’s wishes.
This week, we can practice opening in our asana and pranayama practice. This can be challenging! Backward extensions (backbends) are spiritually and emotionally uplifting, but can bring on feelings of vulnerability. That is what opening is about though. Maybe this week our manta can be Christ’s word to the healed man- “Ephphatha!”
God bless and peace be with you!