Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Sutra 1.12

sutra 1.12

abyhasa vairagyabhyam tan nirodah

Control over the mind's fluctuations comes from persevering practice and non-attachment.

For many years I practiced a form of hatha yoga called ashtanga vinyasa developed by Pattabhi Jois. The various forms are called "First Series", "Second Series" and so on. The series grow so increasingly difficult that when people mention "Fifth Series" it is said with a mystical hush that should be reserved for talking about God.

I was very attached to this form of practice. It was a sustaining part of my life for nearly 10 years. I would even now admit a fanatical zeal that motivated my practice. I was quite sure that this system was superior to all other systems and when I took a class with a teacher who did not follow "traditional method," I was certain I had just experienced a lesser form of yoga.

Over time several things happened that led me to start questioning this "traditional method." I began to articulate my doubt and was eventually ostracized by those pals who had previously praised me, certain that some day I might even reach "Third" or even shhhhhh "Fourth Series."

One day during this time I agreed to teach a "First Series" class—Traditional Method. First of all the students regarded me with suspicion because it was well-known that I was already breaking with the rigid guidelines of ashtanga. Since it was not my regular student body, I followed the Series faithfully even though as the class wore on people were beginning to look bedraggled, freaked, amped and anxious. In the ashtanga method variations are rarely offered, so if you can't do the pose, you do it anyway.

As the poses began to grow more difficult some people began to look down-right freaked. And they liked it!! We arrived at a notoriously difficult posture Janusirsasana, I watched as the students seemed almost willing to sacrifice the kneecap or the hip in order to achieve the posture. There were little muted squeals of pain, and grimaces that implied out patient care soon.
"We're going to skip this one," I said.
No one in the room could do the pose. What was the point?

One guy was furious. His eyes bulged and his jaw muscle clinched mightily. He was pulling so hard on his ankle I was amazed that his knee cap didn't bust through his skin like a frisbee and fly across the room. But I could tell he was so totally committed to the practice he didn't care. He had to do Janusirsasana C in order to have a fulfilling practice.
"Hey man," I said—(I really did say man—it's my way of being kindly emphatic) "Hey man, lightning's not going to strike you if you don't do Janusirsasana C."
There was a collective gasp in the room. I had just defiled "The Practice."
The poor dude ignored me and just kept insisting that his body was going to bend that way, even though he wasn't even close. I am 99 per cent sure he has subsequently had knee surgery and might even be walking with a cane.

After that moment, the class rapidly disintegrated. I was not a true-believer as evidenced by the fact I had skipped a pose in "The Series." I was completely disheartened. Soon after I regarded this moment as liberative and it allowed me to expand and deepen my understanding of yoga, teaching, variance of practice to suit the individual and a bit about human nature, especially my own. Let me make clear that abandoning that particular form of yoga was not shed lightly, and for a while felt a sense of grief and loss and a little foolishness. Eventually I regarded it as a coat that had served me well, but one I was ready to shed.

It is made clear in the Yoga Sutras that non-attachment is applicable even to the elected path you are walking. You can cling to hard to your road. The teaching of vairagya-non-attachment is woven through all the great teachings of yoga and most other spiritual traditions as well. The true discipline of yoga is to have discipline but not be a slave to the prizes of your labor, or the labor itself. Another elmement of Sutra 1.12 is that the state of vairagya is mainly arrived at through perservering practice. It is very hard to simply decide to be unattached. In Yoga one cultivates a world view that is supported in all endeavors no matter what the outcome. In Yoga the actions and the fruit of the actions are given up to their original Source.

Krishna says to Arjuna in the Second Teaching of the Bhagavad Gita:

Be intent on action,

not on the fruits of action;
avoid attraction to the fruits
and attachment to inaction
Perform actions, firm in discipline,
relinquishing attachment;
be impartial to failure and success—

this equanimity is called Yoga.

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