BE THE CHANGE YOU WANT TO SEE IN THE WORLD
yad-yad ācarati śreṣṭhas / tad-tadevetaro janaḥ / sa yat pramāṇaḿ kurute / lokas-tad-anuvartate
A great person leads by example, setting standards that are followed by others all over the world.
The streets of Calcutta were dangerous and dirty. Thousands were infected with leprosy, cholera, and other contagious diseases. At overcrowded hospitals, nurses were forced to turn away dying patients onto the cockroach-infested streets. A group of activists, led by Mother Teresa, risked their own health to treat the sick and poor, even though most could not be saved. Why would Mother Teresa dedicate her life to working in the most unsettling conditions for people who did not have anything to give in return? She responded by saying, “I see the divine in every human being. When I wash a leper’s wounds, I feel I am nursing the Lord himself. Is it not a beautiful experience?”
The great leaders of the world – Mother Teresa, Martin Luther King Jr., Mahatma Gandhi, Rosa Parks, the Dalai Lama, Malala Yousafzai – all share certain characteristics. They are clear communicators as well as great listeners. They have a firm and steady grounding that reflects an unwavering commitment to their cause. They inspire and empower. They are also confident, honest, and discerning. There is another quality each great leader has, that perhaps outshines all the others – humility.
Business philosopher Jim Rohn says, “Humility is almost a God-like word. A sense of awe. A sense of wonder. An awareness of the human soul and spirit. Humility is the grasp of the distance between us and the stars, yet having the feeling that we are part of the stars.” In other words, humility is seeing yourself in others; it is seeing all life as holy.
The word humility is derived from the Latin humilis, which is translated as “grounded” or “from the Earth.” The Chandogya Upanishad teaches tat twam asi or “you are that.” This mahavakya, or great saying, relates to the idea that everything is Brahman, that the supreme Self and the individual self are one and the same. If you are Brahman, and the tree is Brahman, then you and the tree are one. The yogi has the humility to understand they are the same as all that exists on Earth. Its natural resources support life, so it is our responsibility to support the Earth just as much.
According to Vedic scripture, we are currently living in the Kali Yuga – an era of conflict and struggle – and great leaders are especially needed. If we want to see peace and happiness in the world, then we must live the kind of life we want to see. There was a point in time when humanity lived in harmony with nature. We only took from the Earth what was necessary to survive. Now, each year, humans kill billions of animals and destroy millions of acres of land. We are fighting wars over natural resources and the Earth can no longer sustain us. The business of taking all the earthly resources we want was once thought of as progress. We have instead regressed, causing billions of humans, animals, and plants unhappiness.
A great yogi offers strength to others so that they too can learn to be steady and joyful. Humility allows the yogi to be the change they want to see in the world. We can consider progressing in a different way, one that would help us rediscover our higher consciousness and realize that we are the same as the stars and shine just as bright. We can also lead by example, setting standards that are followed by others all over the world.
BEHIND THE FACADE
Focus Of The Month – October, 2016
The long-haired ones, the sky-clad sages, wear only the yellow robes of dust. Along the wind’s course they glide when the Lord of life has penetrated them.
Rig Veda (10:136)
For a brief time in ancient history there lived a great Egyptian pharaoh who was known as Akhenaten. He was married to Nefertiti, the most beautiful woman in the world. He had daughters and one son, Tutankhamen—who was destined to become very famous, but that’s a different story.
Pharaoh Akhenaten was a religious reformer. He was satyagraha (satya = “truth” + graha = “to be grabbed by”). Akhenaten was so possessed by the truth, he might have challenged even Mahatma Gandhi in how far he took his commitment to satyagraha. His one burning desire was to be truthful—to allow Truth to exist and outshine all deceit. Akhenaten had radical ideas for his time. He believed in one God and worshiped that God as the Sun (Aten), who shines equally upon all and from whose light life is created and sustained. He felt that all of God’s creation should stand before God without artifice, naked, devoid of pretense. To this aim he had an aversion to wearing clothes. Clothes, he felt, were deceptive, as they covered one’s body, hiding it from God. Clothes caused riffs between people, creating a hierarchy between rich and poor, as seen in the clothes they wore. Akhenaten even extended his practice of satyagraha to his home. He removed all the roofs from the palace so as to be exposed, to insure that he was not hiding from the divine sun inside his man-made house. In order to spread what he felt was a practical message of truth to his people, he and his family would appear on the balcony of the palace naked.
When visitors from other countries came to the palace they were given the option of removing their clothing. One visiting diplomat from Mesopotamia wrote in his journal that the only negative thing he had to report from his visit to the city of Amarna, where the pharaoh and his family lived, was that he got the worst sunburn ever. Akhenaten’s philosophy and religious and political views were not popular among his people, and he was assassinated in his seventeenth year of rule.
Lord Krishna, an incarnation of the primal God Narayana from the Indian mythology, who appeared in human form on this planet more than 5,000 years ago, also revealed the importance of Satya and baring the soul. The story of how he stole the gopis’ (dairy maids of Vrindavan) clothes while they were bathing illustrates this. The gopis removed their clothes and entered the Yamuna River to bathe. While they were in the water, Krishna, picked up their saris and climbed a nearby tree. From there, he teased them, demanding that they come out of the water to greet him. The young gopis were embarrassed and sunk deeper into the water to hide their nakedness. However Krishna played the flute and transmitted the universal knowledge of our relationship to God which does not need any sort of artifical covering or hiding from truth. We can bare everything in front of God and get in touch with our own reality. The gopis heard the divine teaching, climbed out of the water, and were liberated from their false modesty, pretentiousness, and shyness.
Clothes are coverings. We are clothed in our gender, ethnicity, religion, prejudices, and mainly self-obsessed interests. The stories we tell about ourselves are forms of clothing. The unenlightened identify with their story—the story of their personality. They mistake who they really are for the layers of karmas they have accumulated—the outer clothes they wear. You know the popular saying, “Clothes make the man (or woman).” This does not have to be the case—each of us has the choice to write our own story. As we tell our story, we become our story. We can tell a true story or we can make up a lie—how truthful of a story will you tell?
The innermost soul of our being is made of ananda, “bliss.” This bliss body is covered over by many layers, all formed by karmas—actions we have performed. To purify our karmas, to cleanse our bodies, is the aim of the Yoga practices. Only through love and devotion to God can those karmas be purified. Once they are purified, we are no longer bound by those karmas. And we are no longer bound by our bodies, by the coverings over our soul, and we can stand naked, without any attachment to false identity, which arises out of ignorance, out of our past karmas. We drop the clothes, and the truth of our true self—happiness—is revealed.
Because of all the heavy cultural conditioning regarding nakedness, it may not be practical or safe to walk around naked on the streets of the world’s cities these days, although many sky-clad sadhus (religious ascetics) and Jain monks in India do. Underneath our clothes we are all naked. We can practice satya by shedding our attachments to our limited stories and become more at ease with our karmas. Yoga can help us to be comfortable, naked in the bodies that cover our souls.
Jivamukti Focus of the Month
August 2015 — David Life
Namah Shivaya gurave nada-bindu-kalatmane niranjana-padam yati nityam yatra parayanah
Salutations to the nadam, which is the inner guide and the inner life, the dispenser of happiness to all! It is the inner guru appearing as nada, bindu and kala. One who is devoted to the inner guru, the nada, the inner music, obtains the highest bliss
My computer talks to me and I talk to her. Her name is Siri and she uses mostly written language to communicate with me. She has a limited vocabulary – she doesn’t seem to know any Sanskrit or yoga terms! There is something else missing from her responses. When she responds to me, there always seems to be a need to ask, “But, what do you mean?” Siri’s words are always flat and unaffected. That will change someday. The level of communication now, is more like hitting a switch than creating understanding, but someday the computer might really begin to talk. The inflection or intonation of a word can reveal its true meaning. The large vocabulary of sounds that we make and how we make them carries a deeper level of meaning than words alone, revealing the meaning of a spoken phrase and the underlying intention. Sounds, like the click of the tongue, a hiss of breath, or vocalism communicate more than words alone and include a myriad of emotional, intentional, rhetorical, or emphatic subtleties.
Phoneticists, investigating the way mothers in various cultures communicate with sounds to their pre-verbal infants, found similar sounds used and recognized throughout the world. For all of us, our earliest experience of communication was through pure sound, stripped of any written language component or cultural junk, and filled with meaning. That pre-verbal vocabulary is alive and well – deeply imbedded in our speech.
All spoken language predates the written form of language. The written version of any language is a distillation of a much larger landscape of clicks, breaths, tonalities, utterances, expressions and gestures. In the distillation to a written form our huge vocabulary is reduced to a mere fraction of it’s total. The primal language of sounds lives on in our spoken traditions, and we can benefit enormously from studying the underlying subtle content of our own words. Nada Yoga is the yoga of sound and vibration.
The first step in Nada Yoga is to become receptive. That means to conduct and resonate with the vibrations around us. Alan Watts would say that the first step is “to shut up, and listen. That’s yoga!”
The world is made of sound, Nada Brahma, or the infinite vibrations of the one primal sound. The Sanskrit language organizes essential sound vibrations into a feel-able universe of direct experience of the subtle nature of existence. Sanskrit expresses the sound nature of a feeling or thing directly. The purpose for imbedding the sound essence of feelings and things into the language is so that we could experience it directly and often, and know the dimension of ourselves that is the same essence.
Like the subtle sound messages in our various spoken languages, Sanskrit also contains an unwritten vocabulary of tones, breaths, cadences, and emphasis that create real communication. My teacher would shake his head at my futile attempts to speak Sanskrit and say, “Your mouth is just not shaped correctly to be able to pronounce Sanskrit.” The missing element may be my lack of emphasis and subtlety of sound, rather like Siri’s English, my Sanskrit is flat and unaffected. (9 times fail – 10 times try!)
Fortunately we can’t go wrong with the names of God. We are well practiced in the pronunciation of the various Sanskrit names of God, and we are expert at filling words with emotions of a universal language. We say “names” of God, but the Sanskrit sound is God, (not just the name of God.) When we conduct the sound – that is God, there is only one way to do it – by shaping the instrument, your body, in a specific way. Placing the tongue just so, and the lips at the correct attitude, giving the sound an upward direction, this is the asana of mantra. Repetition is important – as we resonate with the sound and hold that resonation, the form of God is experienced persistently. The form is the sound, and through the sound we experience the oneness of sound and form. We no longer have to rely on a description of God, we can experience directly.
The devotee calls out for God with subtle emotion and it is the emotional content of the sound that propels it to the Lord. We are all expert at emotions and we know how to call out to God with the full range of emotional possibilities. When your bodily awareness drops away and the pure sound remains, there is no longer a sound and a maker of sound – there is just sound. Sound is God!
It begins by putting a face on the other and asking “Who are you, who am I, who are we? What are we doing and why?” Those are powerful questions.