Mar 17, 2015
Rishi's, Radiance & Renaissance. The Roads of Yoga
The original yogis, called “Rishis” where progressive and radical in their practices of radiance. They created art and beauty from and for all things as a gateway to commune with nature, thereby transcending the illusory fabrications of it. The concept of “renaissance” as an artful life fits the perfect description of the original yet ever-evolving modern day yogis (us!). Related to the words “reassurance, reconnaissance, resistance, resonance” the paths of yoga are a radiant re-sounding of nature that we can get into & have the courage to continue with dynamic foresight.
Our yoga "practice" is to remember our origin, which diminishes all delusions, doubts, fears and worries, “re-sounding” & revolutionizing the renaissance. “Resonance” means to re-sound. When something is sound it will both organically beautify and attract beauty. To offer our diverse talents and strengths and to share them is to be a yogi without being shy or needing attention over it, both adversarial. True yogis look to artfully generate more connection. To grip to one thing, or time itself, or isolate ourselves, creations or our purpose creates vectors of separation in existence. It is the opposite of yoga, called “ayoga”, which means to pull apart.
Many roads in India are called “margas”. Marga means “road”. There are Universes of paths to explore in yoga. For us in the west, asana is the most branded understanding of what yoga is. Even though yoga itself is 5,000 years old the systematized, organized components of asana both structurally & in transcribed sequences have really come into being in the past 200 years. The path of asana is called “Hatha Marg”, which means physical balance of the energies of sun and moon. Hatha yoga is very tactile and tangible, yet within it it creates a greater sensitivity as a gateway to experience on deeper levels, not just the physical alone.
Hatha Marg trains us to experience & refine all of our senses, uplifting our taste for all things. It also helps us to get into & respect our body (and others). Often our practices or lifestyles can be unsettling, getting us further out & unaware of what is right in front of us or how we are upholding it. All things physical means how we treat our body, what we put into it, how (and what) we breath, who we live with, how we live in the physical world with others and how the world is treated physically due to our physical choices.
Anything that can activate a spiritual atmosphere in a physical form is hatha yoga. Hatha Marg is spiritual activism. It also means balance. An imbalance could mean materialism or even spiritual materialism. Balance advocates what is simple & honors physical forms infused with Spirit, the "atma". The symbiosis of the 2 brings more steadiness emotionally, a clear mental cognition and the capacity to be physically kind to others. Anything that gets us to remember that we (and all others) have a body and we are a Soul is Hatha. Hatha Marg is a merge of the two. It is not Hatha if the physical is isolated, imbalanced or acting separate from the spiritual. We have been given a body as a gift to do great things. Doing so with gratitude for this body we give back reminds us we are Soul’s having physical experiences in communion with natural world.
In traveling to India and many places in Asia, I have found the most obvious & popular form of yoga to be the “Bhakti marga” or the path of devotion. Bhakti literally means to share love. It is stated in the Bhakti Sutras that yogis are to be generators and generous with Love as to activate, provoke and invoke more of the same.
Bhakti’s are also in love with the physical experience as an offering to God. There are numerous key ways to practice this marga, including “Satsang”, which is the practice of hand choosing good company with care and ethics that you wish to portray. Another is “puja", which are daily rituals which give site to a physical presence of offering in humility and gratitude, keeping and preserving our sweet nature.
Service, or going out of our way to give freely to others, called “Seva", in acts of loving kindness and without any expectation is a key component in the Bhakti Marg, as stated in the Bhagavad Gita. It is important in the Bhakti Marg that a devotional practice is always there, keeping us humble and in loving adoration to others.
Singing to God in recitation of the Holy names, called “Harinam” is one of my favorite practices in the Bhakti Marg to shift and elevate my mood quickly so I don’t get caught up in diminishing ideas. Chanting in a devotional setting, much different than what we were taught in the West, can get us out of feeling selfness, self consciousness or the idea performing for others, all ego based.
The Sanskrit mantras are thought to be codes that we are attracting and then encoding into our very being, down to our DNA, cells and koshas. Call and response chanting, also called “Sankirtana” is a quick way to change our mind and to free perpetual programs of worry. Worries are also repetitive mantras. Choosing uplifting mantras in their place is a practice of undoing bad mental constructs & dropping the energy into the heart.
“Bhav”, another Sanskrit word often used in the Bhakti Marg, means to set an atmosphere or attitude, in or out, that is elevated. A Bhakta will sing, dance, serve, pray, cook out the static to get to the ecstatic. Being a practitioner of the Bhakti Marg gives us the chance to positively affect, in a very sweet & sincere way, everything that we come into contact with, oozing with the essence of our true golden nature.
Eternal Sound, called Nada Bramha, is the first marg that came into existence, called Nada Marg. The ancient yogis believe that we all came from sound and that each of us is a note or verse of an entire song or verse in the Uni-verse. These individual sounds then began to slow down their frequencies to become a variety of names and forms (all of us!) . The Vedas say sound is first sense to form in the womb and the last sense to go when we leave our bodies. Because of this, sound carries potent subtle body energy.
Sound is related to the element ether, thus it is related to all things ethereal and celestial. It is more subtle than yet can permeate all of the other senses of tasting, touching, seeing & smelling. The Rishis like to honor sound as a means of connecting to our Higher Wisdom, angels & what they call the “celestial dancers”, or “gandharvas”. Call me crazy but who doesn’t what celestial dancers whispering the sweet mysteries of the Universe into their ears, if only we pause to not always speak but to listen?
The “nadis” within our physical bodies are subtle streams of energy and are the mini rivers of sound within us. The “chakras” are the merge of light and sound. Everything in the horizon of nature is sound. The Goddess Saraswati, depicted as the muse of Sound is plucking the strings of a vina much like we are to pluck the strings and finely tune our own instruments as to truly listen.
The Rishi’s say that the most important quality of a yogi is to be a good listener. In this way all yogis are musicians. A quote I love from Iyengar….”how do you know if a body is tuned just right? By it’s ability to listen.” And a quote from our teacher, Sharon Gannon….”how can you tell if a student is advancing in yoga? By the sound of their voice.”
“Raja” is translated as “king” in Sanskrit. The Raja Marg is the road of meditation, where deep listening becomes activated in profound stillness, calm and rest of the mind. I often get many questions & concerns from students about meditation, stating that they are not doing it. Patanjali has a way of breaking down meditation for us to better understand the path of becoming more of a king or queen of our minds and not fooled nor ruled by the seeds in our own minds alone. It is important for a yoga to consider not believing everything that they think, or what everyone else thinks for that matter.
In Patanjali’s 8 limbs, called “Ashtanga”, the last 4 can help to lead us to an approachable meditation practice. To first begin the process of withdrawing the stimulus or multitasking of our lives, called “Pratyahara”, creates a readiness for the mind and body to pause. Then we can apply the last 3…. 1. Focused 2. Fixed 3. Perfect. or 1. Dharana 2. Dhyana 3. Samadhi.
To jump to doing nothing and being in total and perfect absorption of nothingness, which sounds pretty out there for most humans, one can first work on focus and concentration as a practice which will begin to weed out the chaotic, mixed or dull imprints within us. There are many forms and practices of meditation for the Raja Marg.
In an active practice, the gap of lack of ability to focus lessens, a fixed period that is elongated in absorption occurs & a yogi is getting “in” to all things more. Deprogramming memories that are a problem & have misinformed an originally clear lens is greater freedom and absorption of presence. Being present is a clear sign of someone actively engaged in their free consciousness & will. These qualities are all mind stuff... all related to the mind.
“Perfection” in this case means absorption or cessation from holding the agitation. This might be a new definition of perfection for many of us as often airbrushed media, movies, Facebook & pop culture can persuade false imagery on a mind that doesn't question whether if what is popular leads us from to or further off the course of our Higher Selves. Perfection doesn’t mean that revealing challenging circumstances in and out won’t occur, but that you are a king or queen (or both!) of them, no longer sedated, ruled or mislead by them.
The Raja Marga is the “all seeing” marg. You’re beginning to consistently see the big & Cosmic picture & less tricked by the myopic videos the seeds in the mind inflate and create. Knowing where all phenomena comes from, unconditioned states of calm & lucidity are activated in re-cognition. A yogi wishes to have trained in the Mastery of their minds at the snap of a finger as an art form, available instantly for what is clear and here now.
These are a few of many Margas on the Yogi’s road. “Jnana Yoga Marga”, which is the practice of studying the sacred texts and holy books, originally done orally alone yet now it is Universally accessible. “Karma Yoga Marga”, living a total life devoted to serving others without asking for money or anything in return. It is said this is done most potently when it is anonymous & when we can share the dharmic teachings. “Dharma Yoga Marga”, to uphold personal ethics, purpose & live true to one’s purpose here on the planet, each individual & personal, yet always considering the whole. These are other margas that can be focused on and highlighted as art in life.
As a personal practice & daily personal goals, I do my best to keep the practice creative, multi-faceted and consistent. I practice praying, thanking my influences and teachers, singing, learning new Sanskrit mantras & playing my harmonium everyday, typically in the morning with a puja & offering to a beautiful altar that is easy on the eyes & reminds me of beauty. I always think of a few others that may need assistance at that time.
After, I meditate with my mala beads and do japa for a good 20 minutes I make no sounds at all outwardly, remaining still in silence and “mauna” (no speaking) . I talk very little in the morning as it is a sacred time still partially in the dream state where I receive many messages as to how to interact with more refinement, new projects & work ideas, and improvements to who may need my assistance. I had a teacher recently say on my Asia trip to be sure to get all of the serious spiritual things taken care of in the morning and as the day transpires, get more physical and lighten up a bit, getting less serious. With this natural routine, my offering is then to hope to act with more care and skill throughout the day and to contain enjoyment, laughter & sweetness in my interactions.
I also do asana for 1 hour and a half 4-6 days a week. The moment I am complete I feel more friendly, more clear, uplifted & inspired by the imaginative qualities that move me and feel more like me. I also make it a personal goal that I must go out of my way to acts of loving kindness 3 times per day, so that I experience yoga is a lifestyle, checking in with the honesty of how “good” I am at it really.
I also suggest reading uplifting scriptures or books and articles from time to time & to visit one new place each year on a sacred pilgrimage, called a "Yatra", retreat or travel. I become very challenged in new settings in pilgrimage, trekking, circumambulating, etc as an offering of where I personally struggle within. These sojourns to be travailed have cleared all kinds of deep blocks within me that tend to arise in unfamiliar settings and have opened my eyes and heart to all kinds of ways of being that have influenced my practices.
Yogis are meant to be renaissance & super human, living up to our heightened potentials, activating purpose and fulfillment on the planet by many different means. Be a yogi! There is Unity in diversity and trying new things. What can be more fulfilling than to move and inspire others on the many marg’s that bring a congealed, dynamic Oneness? There are strands of eternity happening now in each of these margas, inviting us to walk the talk in creative perfection and really be it. Be a yogi! Walk the road. Enjoy the roads less traveled and bold enough to travel your own, the one that resonates with you…. There is profound reassurance & radiance there.