Saturday, October 29, 2011

Yoga and Christianity

This entry is for someone who recently asked me about practicing Yoga as a Christian- you know who you are- this is for you!
Yoga is a science- not a religion.  It is a science that can work well when practiced along side a religion- any religion.  What we call Yoga is Classical Yoga philosophy based on the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali- a very old text that was originally passed down through an oral tradition so dating these scriptures is difficult, but many historians and theologians consider Yoga to be 5000 years old.  It is through this text that we learn about the 8 Limbs of Yoga.

1. yamas: restraints or abstinences

   a) ahimsa: nonviolence

   b) satya: truthfulness

   c) asteya: non-stealing

   d) brahmacharya: moderation in sensual gratification- sex, eating, sleeping, etc.

   e) aparigraha: non greed, non-hoarding

2. niyamas: observances

   a) saucha: purity in word, thought and deed, cleanliness

  b) santocha: contentment

  c) tapas:  zeal for practice, discipline

  d) svadhyaya: study of spiritual books, self study

  e) Isvara pranidhanam: surrender, devotion and/or worship of God

3. asana: physical postures

4. pranayama: control of the breath or life force

5. pratyahara: voluntary sense withdrawal, choosing to turn our focus inward

6. dharana: concentration

7. dhyana: meditation (which is sustained concentration)

8. samadhi: bliss, super conscious state (which is sustained meditation)

The Yamas and Niyamas are similar ethical guidelines as the 10 Commandments of the Bible and they even go further- I love the guideline Santocha- practice contentment.  The 8 Limbs to me seem to be in alignment with Christian ideals.  We know from the Bible that Christ meditated.  The physical postures of Yoga are actually a very small part of the science and are used to make the body and mind healthy enough and calm enough for meditation.  Meditation is the cornerstone of Yogic practice.  Minds have always been noisy, but the hectic pace of modern life in particular creates a mind that is agitated, stressed and filled with to do lists.  Meditation makes the mind quiet enough to hear the voice of Divine guidance- the voice of God- whatever your name is for God.  The Yogic science unites the realms of body, mind and spirit.  The Yogis learned that breath is the bridge between these realms- so working with the breath is part of the science. 

Patanjali used the word "Isvara" for God in the Sutras.  There were many other names for God being used at the time which he could have used, but he chose this word specifically.  Isvara means "that which rules over the diversity of manifestation".  It is close enough to be a Divine blank- so that the Yoga practitioner could use their own personal name for God or even to use no personalized name at all- Classical Yoga may be practiced by people seeing Nature as God or even by atheists.

The name by which we call the Divine is largely based on which house we were born into.  The creation story we learned as children is either myth or scripture depending on where or when you were born.  God is like the sun in the sky- the sun goes by different names in different languages, but they all describe the same heavenly body.

Patanjali tells us to study spiritual books, but does not say which spiritual books, that is up to us.
Patanjali tells us to surrender to God, but does not tell us which God to surrender to, that is up to us.

To me, this is the genius of the Yogic system- this is why it has been around for 5 thousand years.  Many wars have been fought over which name we will call God- many lives have been lost over that fight.  Yoga simply takes that element out of the equation so that the practice and science is universal, cross cultural and timeless.

I have included this short interview with Father Bede Griffiths, 1906-1993.  Father Bede was a Benedictine monk who spent a lifetime teaching a fusion of monastic Catholicism and Eastern science, including Yoga, all fully sanctioned by the Vatican.
For more information you might read one of Father Bede's many books- A New Vision of Reality:  Western Science, Eastern Mysticism and Christian Faith

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Introduction to Sanskrit Workshop

Join us November 4-6 for an Introduction to Sanskrit Workshop with Zoe Mai of the American Sanskrit Institute.  go to for more information or to register.

Ken's 5:30 pm Friday night class will be cancelled for this night ONLY- sorry for any inconvenience, but the teacher is flying in from New York and we have so much ground to cover.

I am taught that the Matrika- the organization of sound known as the Sanskrit alphabet- has 51 distinct sounds.  The lotuses of the main chakras along the spine add up to 51 as well- also the number of meridians located there.  (Sahasara is either the thousand petaled lotus or is represented by 1 lotus- the count of 51 of course uses 1 for Sahasara.)  Each distinct sound in Sanskrit heals a unique part of us.  The Samkhya rishis found that sound (shabda) comes from space (Akash).  Space is the most subtle of all the elements, therefore it is the most powerful of the elements.  Working with sound is powerful magic.  Ganesh is the ruler of the Matrika so the practice of Sanskrit will clear obstructions in the lines of energy in our bodies and remove obstacles in our lives.

Complaining and Skillful Action

Karma = Action
Vasanas = Mental Tendencies, thoughts

Action produces Thoughts
Thoughts Produce Action and Action Produces Thought and Thought Produces Action and Action Produces Thought and Thought Produces get the picture
The type of action performed will determine the type of thought produced.

Karma produces vasanas, mental tendencies , that make us want to perform that very same action over and over again. (like increases like) Then we perform the action again and new vasanas are produces that make us want to perform that same action yet again! It’s a vicious cycle that will continue until we develop our 2 wings- awareness and power. Awareness gives us the insight that we seem to be performing the same action over and over again. And power gives us the energy to stop the cycle by learning to perform only those actions that we would like to repeat.
In class, I used the example of complaining. People who complain seem to complain regularly. If we complain, then vasanas are produced that make us want to complain more in the future. Circumstances are even pulled our way so that our complaining will be allowed to manifest. If I have the awareness that I complain regularly, or someone tells me :), and I have the awareness that complaining is an inefficient use of my voice and I have the power (shakti) to do something about that, then this would be a game plan: Complaining is victim mentality so if I find that I am in a situation that I have the ability to change then , rather than complaining about the situation, I will ask for what I want to be changed. If I am in a situation that I cannot change, then I will look for the good in the situation FIRST and then embrace what is. Even if you are complaining on the inside- whats important is that we do not act out- we neither speak nor act from this vasana. If we continue to refuse to plant the seed of action then eventually the mental tendencies are no longer present that compel us to act in this way. This is amazingly efficient mind training and makes life so much easier.

If you have people in your life who complain regularly and you're thinking about trying to give them this equation to change- remember that someone needs to have sufficient awareness and power to change this habit, otherwise, its like singing a song to a deaf man.

The Art of Managing the Unconscious Mind

The seeds of destiny lie in your unconscious mind. If you have not learned the art of managing your unconscious mind, then you are a victim of destiny.- Swami Rama

Yoga and modern psychology agree that what is compelling us to speak and act in the ways that we do is the nature of the unconscious mind. If we can find a way to gain access to that part of the mind and integrate what is there in our lives, then we are free to speak and act with more awareness. (some teachers make a distinction between the subconscious mind and the unconscious mind, but for our conversation, we will use the term unconscious because that is what Swami Rama used and it will refer to the parts of our mind that are beneath the surface.)

Meditation is the Yogic method for managing the unconscious mind. The thoughts that have been produced from past actions are released from the unconscious mind when are able to watch them in meditation. “Observe, but don’t get involved.”- Rod Stryker. When we watch on a regular basis, we have a better chance of making positive decisions about which actions we will perform. The thoughts and emotions that we carry around in the unconscious mind require some energy to keep them there- repressed. When we watch and release them in meditation, we then have some extra energy to be used in other areas of our lives and we lighten our emotional loads- we feel lighter- we raise our vibration.

That which we do not make conscious later emerges as fate. – Jung

We shall trace the

Origin of seed.

The seed of Prajapati,

Lord of Creatures, are the Gods.

The seed of the Gods is rain.

The seed of rain is herbs.

That of herbs is food,

The seed of food is seed,

The seed of seed are creatures,

The seed of creatures,

Is the Heart.

The seed of the Heart is mind.

The seed of mind is speech.

The seed of speech is action.

Action done in a former state is this Mankind.

The dwelling place of Brahman.

The Principal Upanishads

I LOVE this- Rain is divine- God is in the rain, who we are is based on past actions, and it is a statement of nonduality- we are the dwelling place of God- we are divine.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Vak Siddhi

"Do not be afraid of the word revolution; Bob Marley did not call his group the whiners, they were the Wailers.  We have a moral imperative to use our voice to wail about authentic grievances."  Dr. Cornel West- a Princeton professor and activist, speaking to the Occupy Wall street Movement.

Vak Siddi is one of the minor siddhis, or accomplishments, that Yogis may attain through sincere spiritual practice.  Vak means speech or voice so the accomplishment of Vak Siddhi is the ability to speak and make changes to the material universe.  Vak Siddhi is the discovery of the voice as a powerful tool for manifesting and exploring the scope of its potential.  Masters throughout the ages, like Jesus, have demonstrated this ability.

The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali give us the recipe for attainment this skill.  If we use our voice in truthful, positive, life affirming and loving ways, then the siddhi develops spontaneously.  When we tell non truths or misuse the power of our voices by gossiping or even just talking too much, we limit our ability to manifest with our voices.  Satya is the path of truth.  It is a life long pursuit of knowing truth, speaking truth and ultimately learning to live our greatest truth.  The practice of Satya produces Vak Siddhi.

I have seen the power of Vak Siddhi is my own life.  Once we realize the power of our voices, then we learn to use that power wisely.  Be careful what you ask for.......

"The word is a force; it is the intent.  That is why our intention manifests through the word no matter what language we speak."
Don Miguel Ruiz

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Selfishness VS Altruism

Yogic/ Tantric Philosophy
Be Good- Do Good
Love All- Serve All
Values the combination of intuitive and analytical problem solving
There is an interconnection between all beings. We are all one.

Objectivism Philosphy (As taught by Ayn Rand)
Sees productive achievement and the pursuit of individual happiness as man's noblest activities.
Rejects the ethical doctrine of altruism and embraces selfishness as a life path.
Rejects feeling and intuition as sources of knowledge and values perception, logic and reason
Ayn Rand: “We should not love everyone indiscriminately, not everyone is worthy of love.”

Ayn Rand (1905-1982) was a Russian immigrant who came to this country to escape the oppression of Communist Russia. She worked briefly in film making with Cecile B. DeMille and later wrote the wildly successful books The Fountainhead and Atlas Shrugged. Ayn Rand wrote of her philosophical ideas in her books and the tradition she created later came to be called Objectivism. Rand’s philosophy was widely criticized in the US, particularly because selfishness was the antithesis of Judeo-Christian ideals. Objectivism struck a chord within the business community however, especially for bankers and financiers. Many thought so highly of Rand that they would name businesses and even children after her. One long time, devoted disciple of Ayn Rand was Alan Greenspan- head of the Federal Reserve Bank from 1987 to 2006. (The Fed by the way is a private bank. It is about as federal as Federal Express. Since 1913, the Fed has printed currency for the US government and charges us interest to use the money. This idea of a centralized bank was one of the grievances that our founding fathers had with England and one of the reasons the Revolutionary War was fought.)

Alan Greenspan talked President Bill Clinton into using Rand’s philosophy for running the Fed in 1989 (Greenspan later said that he couldn’t believe that Clinton actually agreed). The actions of the Fed are the cornerstone of US economics and markets around the globe respond to its actions as well. Rand’s philosophy on government was the complete separation of economics and state. An unregulated government was the best way to create peaceful cooperation and justice and harmony in her opinion. The US went from 90% regulation on financial products in the 80s to nearly 100% deregulation in the 90s. Alan Greenspan, after the financial collapse of 2008, blamed “infectious greed” and deregulation of derivatives on Wall Street as the primary reasons for the collapse. He admitted “I WAS WRONG.”

The implications of US economics and a significant portion of Wall Street using selfishness as a mission statement for decades are enormous and frankly, this gives me a greater understanding of exactly how we lost our way.

PS: I have a compassionate understanding of how the seed was planted in Ayn Rand for Objectivism. She came from Communist Russia, where altruism was a method the regime used for controlling the citizenry. Mother Russia asked for her citizens to offer all that they had for the greater good of the state- no matter how oppressive that state was. Communist Russia was all about rules and regulations imposed by the government on its people. Ayn was so devastated and bitter from her experience in Russia that she simply could not see a productive, beneficial use for altruism and government regulation so she turned to selfishness as the answer. As with everyone, her past colored her perception and distorted it.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Why Yogis Should Become Social Activists

Ken Wilbur gives a simplistic, but dead on, definition of people with left wing ideals and people with right wing ideals. ( This is not a definition of Democratic and Republican ideals because those categories are quite broad with many varieties.)

If we ask the question - why are some people poor in the US?
The left wing answer is because those people were not given the same opportunities as others, the deck is stacked against some people in our country. So the answer is because of outside circumstances and deficiencies.

The right wing answer is because those people do not have efficient work ethics. Many people in this country have pulled themselves up by their own bootstraps and succeeded. So the right wing answer is because of inner circumstances and deficiencies.

So, who is right?? A more enlightened answer is that both left and right are correct- its a little of both. And to most efficiently create a solution to the problem, it would be best to address both parts of the problem.

President Bill Clinton was proposing something just like this years ago- The Responsibility and Opportunity Welfare Program. It was a stroke of genius that appealed to both political polarities. Soon after, Mr. Clinton lost any sort of power he wielded in D.C. with the Monica scandal and the welfare program never came to fruition.

This is very similar to the differing world views of those who are on a spiritual path and those who are not. Yogis, Tantrikas, Buddhists, Sufis, Kabbalists- those on a spiritual path think the best way to change the world is from the inside out. The world will be peaceful on the outside when all of its people are peaceful on the inside and the way to accomplish that is thru spiritual practice. So many Yogis, myself included until just a few years ago, drop out of political conversation and are not interested in social change. Many do not even vote.
People who are not on a spiritual path think the best way to change the world is by getting out there and letting their voice be heard by politicians.

What would happen if we tried to change the world using BOTH methods? Do the inner work AND the outer work.