Saturday, June 26, 2010

Sutra 1.20

sutra 1.20

sradda virya smriti samdadhi prajna purvakah itrasam

For the others, faith engenders energy that reinforces the memory, allowing concentration on wisdom.

In 1974 life dealt me a cruel blow.
"Killer bees are coming from Africa. They are going to sting us all to death!" My older brother delighted in announcing.
"No one will be safe!!" He yelled as he went off to blow up his model tank with a firecracker. And then he said he was going to shoot the model tank with his BB gun.
"Whoa!" He shouted as he went, "I just saw a huge bee!"
"I don't believe you," I called after him, tears forming in my eyes. But I did. I really, did.
 That night he showed me pictures of the bees' trajectory on a map in National Geographic to illustrate the truth of his statement. My faith had been moved effortlessly from one pole to the other. Up till the moment my brother announced the immanent arrival of the bees, I felt quite certain in my safety and well-being. After the announcement my faith was certain that disaster was only moments away. It was precisely at this time that there came a vogue for disaster movies. In the same year I saw "Attack of the Killer Bees" I also saw "Towering Inferno" and the final swoop "Earthquake in Sensoround."

Through the movies I discovered a world just waiting to crack open and swallow me my family whole. Much to my brother's delight I was a shivering wreck. Each night was a filled with bloody and feverish dreams of disaster.
"You know," my brother would lean over to me at dinner, "If you're caught in an elevator in a burning building you'll just fry. Or the cables will snap and you'll be crushed. And then burned to a crisp."
"Phillip!!" My mother would shout at him. "Quit terrifying her. She can't sleep any more as it is!"

After nearly a year of almost constant fretting and waiting for "The Big One" to hit Los Angeles, I was finally distracted by other thoughts and my faith of basic safety was restored to its former childish innocence, though I was and still am terrified of tall buildings. And then in 1975 Jaws was released and not only the ocean, but any body of water from tub to sea was suspect of a bloody attack. I was never again re-assured of total safety.

Of course maturation helped me put some of these fever-dreams into perspective, however I never lost that sneaking feeling that a fatal event was lurking just around the corner. All this was compounded by an ever-increasing doubt in the practices of the faith I was reared in. By 9th grade I was an avowed atheist, a fact I took great pleasure in announcing whenever I could.
"We're having chicken for dinner," my mom would say.
"That's cool. I'm an atheist."
"What??" she would shout from the kitchen.
"Go clean up your room," my dad would say.
"I have faith in nothing but my self!" I would say, never really meaning it.

As I struggled through college and graduate school, my atheistic point of view began to come into conflict with the workings of my heart. However, academic practice almost NEVER includes a conversation of faith unless it is to utterly dissect it of all beauty and to determine it as nothing more than an extension of superstition. This inability to truly explore the natural workings of my mind led me to abandon my studies. By mistake, (see Sutra 1) I began to practice yoga and the issue of faith was once again "allowed" to be explored freely and openly.

Yoga helped me gain a greater understanding of the world in what felt to be a truly authentic manner. The more I opened to this faith, the more I was strengthened and filled with vitality. There was proof of the Divine everywhere within and without. As I practiced (and for me practice is still the way to cultivate even deeper faith) I was galvanized with a sense of surety about the totally positive outcome of practicing yoga.
"It's the only things I have ever done that I know is truly positive." I said to my brother on the phone one night.
"That's really cool," Phillip said and then sent me some money that helped me go to India in order to further my studies.

Now some will say that faith is nothing more than an avoidance of the brutality of living. Yoga teaches us not to avoid difficulties but to learn to respond them appropriately. Yoga has helped me to manage both complete joy and terrible sorrow.  The word faith has its root in the Latin fide which means to trust. Faith is the deep trust, the knowing that your practice is cultivating your finer abilities. When you are calm you can concentrate more steadily. When you concentrate more steadily you are more near to identifying with the true nature of reality. Faith is not only deep trust but acknowledgment of evidence that the energetic attention paid to your Yoga cultivates well-being and steadiness. Faith is the deep trust engendered by Yoga. You'll find through practice that even when the killer bees come you will figure out a way to survive with dignity and grace.

What do you have faith in?

If you don't have faith in anything, do you know why?

When you see or hear the word faith, what feelings does it engender?

How have you come to your faith?

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