Yoga, my Spiritual Path
Updated: Apr 9, 2019
ganesa graha nakshatra
yogini rasi rupinim
devim mantra mayim naumi
matrkam pitha rupinim
"I open myself to the teachings that reveal the light of knowledge of the self"- The Nitya Sodashikamava
I am a student, practitioner and teacher of Tantric Hatha Yoga according to the Sri Vidya Tradition, as passed down since the Vedic period. As a follower of this Tradition, I am a member of a living lineage, which means there is a traceable, unbroken line of adepts that have carried the teachings, passing them down as worthwhile students presented themselves, embodied the teachings and eventually passed them on themselves. This was accomplished primarily by word of mouth, and with much secrecy, for thousands of years in order to maintain the sacred integrity of the Tradition. 2200 years ago, the great Sage Patanjali, a member of our lineage, was the first to write the teachings down in a holistic systematic treatise entitled, The Yoga Sutra.
"When I was a teenager I had a vivid experience - from every direction and in every respect I was embraced by a reality bigger than my soul, my mind and the world of my faith and conviction. This experience freed me from doubt and fear and transported me to a state of joy untainted by want and need. But it did not last. I studied the scriptures, sat at the feet of masters and undertook spiritual practices in an attempt to reclaim this experience. But only when I practiced what is described in Yoga Sutra 1:36, did I find what I had lost.
I grew up steeped in the ideals of the sages. I revered Buddha and Mahatma Gandhi and was certain I had no animosity and no enemies. I had no reason to fear anything or anyone. But this conviction was shattered early one morning when a gang of bullies knocked me down and threw me into a compost pit. The bullies - my distant uncles - were trying to get a disputed piece of land by terrorizing my family. They slapped my mother and hurled me into the compost pit. Enraged and shouting at the top of my lungs, I climbed out only to be thrown back in. This happened repeatedly. Very quickly, the people from the village formed a ring around me and my uncles. These were our neighbors - my friends and friends of my family - so when no one came forward to protect me, let alone defend justice, I was overcome by a torrent of anger and sadness. Everyone seemed like my enemy. All I could think of was to destroy everything and everyone, even myself. At this point, my uncles picked me up and hurled me into the pit again.
With this, something shifted. Lying in the bottom of the pit, I thought, "They have bamboo sticks. What is preventing them from beating and killing me? Why don't I have any broken bones? Who's protecting me from serious injury? These questions drew me into a state I had never known before. I saw myself - a lonely and helpless fellow hoping for others to protect me. I saw conviction and my lack of it. I saw the feeling of animosity inside me and the enemies outside. I saw the element of fear, as well as its source. I saw my mind drowning in sorrow. Yet right next to my afflicted mind, I saw a luminous being and instantly recognized it as my own essence - my inner Self. It was the Divinity in me. I looked at my mind through the eyes of this Divinity and found it as pure and bright as the Divine itself. I was overcome by a joy that had no trace of sorrow. My fear and feelings of animosity vanished. I did not need anyone or anything to protect me. I was not lonely, for I was embraced by the luminous Divinity who spontaneously emitted the light of discernment and profound joy.
I climbed out of the pit. To my surprise, the atmosphere was considerably calmer. My uncles were still loudly claiming the land, but the crowd was now condemning the violence. I could clearly see and hear everything happening around me but my mind was pulled inward, trying to assimilate the experience I'd just had. I was thrilled to realize I had found a new mind. With this new mind, I saw a beautiful world and I also saw it was contaminated by fear and greed. More or less, everyone was afflicted by pain.
To be born as a human was clearly a gift, yet people didn't seem to know what to do with this gift. A thought swept my being: I must not let this gift go in vain. The world run by fear, doubt and the desire for power and possessions is trivial. Even the biggest achievements are smaller than the life force. My job is to tend this gift and watch it blossom. I can do it and I must do it."
As children we have a more developed sensitivity to our true nature. If we are able to avoid early childhood trauma, most of us are hopeful, joyful, curious and compassionate kids. We see beauty in the word and in others effortlessly. We are unaware of the preciousness of this world view until it is threatened through our first experience of deep sorrow, injustice or shame. At that point, we suffer the pain of having our blissful world torn from us and wonder if we will ever get it back. Resilient as we are, our beautiful world does return, but not without the shadow of fear and trepidation. Each subsequent traumatic experience reinforces this new tainted world view, casting a longer and longer shadow, obscuring our perception of reality. We begin to experience attachments and aversions - attachments to what we like, what makes us feel happy and safe - and aversions to what we fear, loss and pain. These attachments and aversions begin governing our every thought and deed. We cling to our attachments and avoid our aversions. Through the chaos of this ceaseless pendulum swing between attachment and aversion, we lose sight of the world and ourselves as they truly are. Our mind becomes clouded and the beautiful radiance we sensed so effortlessly as children becomes a distant memory - if we can remember it at all. The purpose of yoga is to guide us back to the truth. We call this Divine Remembrance.
"A human being is an island of excellence. We are born to excel. We are surrounded - from every direction and in every respect - by the intrinsic power and creativity of the Divine. Our core is Pure Consciousness; luminosity is our essential nature. Our most distinctive attribute is our ability to know our own essence - our own intrinsic Divinity. Life is a priceless gift for life endows in us everything we need to experience our grandeur. Discovering the intrinsic Divinity at our core is the highest achievement; dying without experiencing it is the greatest loss." - Pandit Rajmani Tigunait
The root word of yoga is 'yog' - to yoke. Yoga is a systematic methodology for yoking, joining one thing with another. In the tradition of yoga, this joining refers to the rejoining of the individuated soul to the Divine. Remembering who and what we truly are. Divine Remembrance. The concept of the Divine is touchy for many people. It may inspire a sense of wonder or quite the opposite, skepticism or dread. The tradition tells us the Divine is as real as we ourselves....
"It is among us, is in us, is us and yet is beyond us. It has no beginning, no middle and no end. The Divine is eternal, all pervading and beyond death, decay and destruction. It is the total sum of all that is. It is everything - knower, known and the means of knowing. It is endowed with limitless unrestricted power of will, power of knowledge and power of action. The Divine is Pure Being, with the ability to become anything imaginable. It is one, with the ability to become many. It is transcendental, with the ability to become immanent. It is abstract, with the ability to become perceptible. It is beyond time, space and the law of causality, with the ability to become part of the world existing within the domain of time and space." - Pandit Rajmani Tigunait
Through the practice of yoga we peel back the layers of confusion, misconception and misunderstanding surrounding the truth of who we are and the world we live in. We develop the ability to discern between what we see...and reality. We begin to perceive the sacred nature of the world. Yoga provides the tools and the methods for reawakening to the truth. Yogarupa Rod Stryker teaches that "If we don't see or experience the sacred, it is not because it does not exist; it is because we are looking at it with an instrument that is not yet refined enough to see it. When we have rewoven the fabric of our consciousness, when we have returned to the state that nature intended, we will know the sacred part of ourselves. And when we know the sacred part of ourselves, life will become sacred."
Panditji adds, "At the moment of inner awakening, we see the higher reality surrounding us and know it is our perennial source of guidance and nourishment. This luminous reality pervades every cell of our body and all the spaces between...It gives us courage and motivation to explore the vastness of life. It guides us to find our livelihood and to create a world of our dreams. And it does all this and much, much more without seeking anything return. Its love and concern for us is unconditional."
"When I came to yoga I was NOT looking for some grand reunion with the Divine."
That word, Divine, was cringe worthy for years. I enjoyed the workout of yoga, and the increased calm - maybe even peace - I began experiencing. I researched the science behind yoga and read countless books looking for an explanation. Honestly, I continue to. BUT, I have also began to trust my own direct experience of the practices. I chose to have faith in...whatever was happening. Through my mantra and meditation practice, in particular, I began to surrender my need to understand everything and allowed myself to simply experience it instead. And slowly, slowly, the sweetness of this Divine Remembrance is revealing itself to me. In terms of yoga as my spiritual path, I admit freely that I am barely at the beginning. I feel like I've just laced my shoes, packed a bag and stepped onto the path. Fortunately I've chosen a path with maps and guides - sacred texts and teachers steeped in the tradition - that are ready and willing to shepherd me on my way. There is power and peace in being part of a living lineage. There is security in having a teacher who has a teacher who has a teacher. There is camaraderie amongst my peers who also dedicate themselves to this Tradition. And there is immense joy in opening myself up to it all. I may not have come to yoga as a conscious seeker, but I am eternally grateful for what I have found.