Sunday, September 26, 2010

Where the Rivers Converge.

. . .there is no one right way for people to live.
There never has been and never will be.1 - Daniel Quinn

I find yoga to be in agreement with this statement by the writer Daniel Quinn. There is no one way to practice yoga. Instead, there are many diverse ways for people to reach the state of yoga just as there are many rivers that empty into the same ocean. The Yoga Sutras recognize this by including many different paths of yoga; it provides a place for the rivers to converge.

A big chunk of Chapter I (see I:23-39) is basically a list of choices on how to practice yoga. Choices! How refreshing! In a world that seems to want to move towards one large mono-culture, yoga may be able to help us value tolerance and diversity instead. One of my favorite sutras in this list is:

I:39 yathabhimata dhyanad va
Or by meditation on anything that appeals to one as good.2

This sutra really highlights the universality of yoga. Anything you choose can become your focus of meditation. It doesn't matter what religion, or non-religion that you may practice. There is still something for everyone. While reading a new book that I got from the library, The Mirror of Yoga, I came across the following bit that expresses a similar idea to sutra I:39: "We hone the skill of focusing the mind on whatever pattern of perception it lights upon; whatever we are thinking, feeling, sensing, emoting becomes the object of meditation."3

So, there are many ways to still the mind, perhaps as many as there are people. In the beginning of our practice we should be encouraged to use a process of trial and error to find out what works for us. Chapter I (Samadhi Pada) of The Yoga Sutras gives many different 1-step plans to reach samadhi (the ultimate state of yoga). For some, putting into practice just one of these sutras (I:23-39) will do it for them. Although I find the 1-step plans in Chapter I inspiring, I don't think I'm quite cut out for one of them. I still cling to too much baggage, so I can't just jump on the next flight on standby with no check-ins or carry-ons. But fear not! For people like me there is Chapter II, where we will turn to in the next portion of Yoga Goggles.

A little inter-spiritual extra credit: Can you find any similarities between The Yoga Sutras and texts from other traditions like The Tao Te Ching, The Dhammapada, or The Bible?

1. Quinn, Daniel. Beyond Civilization. Three Riviers Press. NY, 1999. (pg. 96)
2. trans. by Swami Vivekananda. Raja-Yoga. Revised ed. Ramakrishna-Vivekananda Center. NY, 1955. (pg. 134)
3. Freeman, Richard. The Mirror of Yoga. Shambala, Boston and London, 2010. (pg. 14)

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