Hope everyone’s doing well this beautiful Monday evening! As promised, I’ll be getting back in the habit of writing these weekly reviews and previews of our Thursday talks. This is the second in a series.
To begin, here’s our revised list of the Five Core Concepts at the Heart of Yoga Practice:
-Satya: Loving What Is
-Asteya: Respect for Differences
-Brahmacharya: Personal Responsibility
I’ve revised a few of the translations and changed the order slightly. I’ll explain my reasons for doing this when we meet this Thursday evening.
Our first two core concepts, Satya and Ahimsa, work together to describe both the nature of Life itself and our correct relationship to it. They are the ground of everything that follows in Yoga.
The second two core concepts, Asteya and Brahamacharya, also work together, supporting individual differences in a context of mutual respect.
The fifth core concept, Aparigraha, is a natural entailment of the four that come before. It pulls them all together and unifies them. But more on that in a future session. Today we’re focusing mainly on Satya, the first principle.
The word “satya” literally means “what is true.” On a basic level, Satya is truth in the sense of “what is the case.” Satya is a description of reality, and as such, it isn’t a static “what is.” Since Life flows, satya or “what is” flows too — ever changing, ever evolving. The truth of “what is” in this is never the same twice. It’s always more than it was before. Truth changes, truth evolves, just like Life does.
Satya, in terms of practice, refers to an deep insight into the nature of Life itself that forms the basis of all subsequent understandings of Yoga.
The following three bullet points describe just some of what Satya, “what is,” means in Yoga:
- Life, “what is,” is a single, indivisible, evolving whole, with no one and nothing left out, and the purpose of Life as a whole is evolution and expansion and growth.
- Life, “what is,” is a stream, a flowing forth of energy and intelligence — eternally expanding and evolving towards the greater good. This streaming forth of Life is eternal, unbroken, and as was said earlier, never the same twice.
- We are not separate from Life; we are one with it. Our nature has it’s basis in Nature, and when we love Life, or "what is" and are able to align with it, we live and grow naturally, in harmony, peace, freedom and every kind of well-being.
To see and experience Life in this way, as one life, one vast eco-system composed of an infinity of diverse but interdependent parts is Vidya: true knowledge, true seeing. This is the Yogi’s point of view, a perspective that is free from all restrictions, inherently rewarding and wonderfully adaptive.
The alternative view of Life, (one that is unfortunately all too common in today’s world,) is to see Life as an arbitrary, chaotic assemblage of competing elements bound together by mechanical laws, with no inherent purpose other than survival. In Yoga this is called Avidya, ignorance, the first of the afflictions Patanjali warns us about in his Yoga Sutras. This perspective brings only distress and suffering, conflict and all manner of difficulties.
Life grows and flourishes for the greater good. Life gave rise to you and provided you with everything you now have and hold dear. And when you love this Life that gave you life and and learn how to live in accord with these five principles of Yoga, Life is good and gets better for everyone.
Unfortunately, too many of us see Life as something threatening, something to be managed and used, it’s resources to be exploited merely to advance our own individual agendas and needs. We don’t, as a rule, tend toward the common good; we tend instead toward aggregations of individual power and control. We compete in ways that don’t foster mutuality or aren't sustainable . We too often fail to live in harmony with ourselves or with Nature; often we live in conflict with both.
All of this, from Yoga’s point of view, is rooted in Avidya, the ignorance of our true nature and the false belief that Life is a chaos that must be tamed by heroic individuals. Yoga describes these beliefs as adharma, life-destroying.
The practice of Yoga — the whole practice of Yoga, which includes mind, heart and behavior, not just physical practice — is designed to remedy this, by aligning you first within yourself and then within the great stream of being that Life is. Through daily practice, we learn how to live in peace and freedom, guided by dharma (natural law) and fully supported by Nature.
This is what the guidelines for practice (Yama and Niyama) are meant to do — to teach us how to live well on every level. In essence the principles of practice are a comprehensive and practical framework to help us make good and life-positive choices, moment by moment, each and every day.
We’ll be learning more about these deeper teachings of Yoga each and every week, putting what we’re learning into practice, which will help us make better, more life-affirming choices.
And when you’re making better choices on a regular basis life tends to flow more easily. You feel better. You’re healthier. Your relationships and life circumstances improve. Why? Because you’re living with the full support of Life itself.
This is the true promise of Yoga: life lived abundantly, in health, in peace, in freedom — in love with and in service to the goodness of Life itself.
This is why we’re meeting each and every Thursday night, to support one another in practice, and to support one another in realizing all the blessings Yoga has to offer.
Join us this Thursday, 9/2216 and every Thursday throughout the Fall as together we explore ways to take our Yoga practice off the mat and into the world.
Firefly Westwood, 311 Washington Street, Westwood, MA at 7:30pm All levels of practice are welcome.
Much love and hope to see you soon,
Definition of Yoga:
“The practice of Yoga is the practice of aligning ourselves with the stream of Life itself through the systematic release of all resistance to the flow of Life.” (YS 1:2, paraphrase)