19 August, 2006
A lady in New Jersey, a friend of my aunt’s, recently sent me a booklet entitled Living Intelligently: According to Bhagavad Gita. It’s a series of questions posed to, and answered by Swami Viditatmananda Saraswati during a talk series in July 2001. The Swami deals with several subjects with some insight and vision – karma for one.
People who think they know what karma is have a position on it – i.e either they believe in it or don’t. But if people really grasped what karma implies there would a lot less controversy about it. The Swami explains karma in disarming simplicity that cuts deep through the mysticism and mystery.
He says that Karma is “the law of cause and effect”. That’s it. That’s all. Cause and Effect – the everyday phenomenon that we readily acknowledge in our physical world; one thing happens and other things happen as a consequence. The consequence is always in keeping with the action that caused it. We neglect our teeth…they go bad. We neglect or poison our bodies…we get sick and die.
But hang on a minute. Good people get cancer and suffer. Good people get their towns shelled to rubble or get rounded up into gas chambers – where’s the cause and effect there? What bad deeds could they have done to deserve those things? And what about the people who shelled them – they’ll get away with it. How’s that fair? Where’s the karma in that?
The Swami says that Karma often plays itself out over a longer term than individuals can appreciate. The span of our lives don’t amount to a lot in the cosmic scale. He says that the universe is like a painting that looks a blurry up close. But if you step back…way back, its order and purpose comes into full resolution. According to him karma is ultimately fair, particularly if you believe that the soul is indestructable and that karmic consequences will impact the soul beyond individual lifespans.
For the Swami, the ultimate proof that Karma (cause and effect) exists, works, and is fair is the sheer order, equilibrium and symmetrical beauty of the universe that we live in. The universe works…and withou karma it wouldn’t.
17 August, 2006
Why do we fast? Eating and drinking is a pervasive act that preoccupies us for much of the day so when we fast, we are reminded continuously of the reason behind the fast – like the proverbial knot in the handkerchief it nudges our memory. So when I fasted yesterday for Janmaashtami it was to remember Krsna and the example he set, and the wisdom he imparted (which the world seems to comprehensively ignore).
Beyond this, fasting is a physiological act of purification. In nature sick animals (and indeed even humans) lose appetite as our bodies look to aid the healing by giving our digestive system a break. When we do eat during a fast, it is sattvic food and drink – fruits, nuts, wholesome milk (I avoid the latter as there is pretty much no such thing easily available anymore). So even if you aren’t taking your yoga to the dinner table, it’s at least one day that you will save yourself from eating bad food or drink.
So…Jai Shri Krsna.
12 August, 2006
I know that doing asanas twice a day for your second 25 years doesn’t make up for not doing asanas for your first 25 years. I know that would not only be futile and pointless, but likely also counter-productive.
So why do I sometimes behave otherwise? Of course I’d never actually practice twice a day (had I that kind of additional time for my practice, I wouldn’t be spending it on asanas – there’s scripture to be read, meditation, pranayama, time spent with spouse and children…all of those would be more yogic use of a spare 90 minutes than a second run through the Primary Series). But I did try to make up for lost time a couple of weeks ago
Here’s what happened: Due to travel, lodging in cramped quarters and the such, I had a lean spell – only managing to practice four times in a week and it included a 5-day spell where I only practiced asanas once. When I got home I embarked on a eight-day stretch that ended with Tuesday’s full moon…as if to try to make up for lost time on the mat. Admittedly they were good sessions. but I could feel my body, mind spirit beginning to tire towards the end of the stretch. I felt reluctance creep into my attitude. I took the moonday gratefully. But was back on the mat on Wednesday. I’m learning my lesson though…it’s Saturday and I’m resting.
6 August, 2006
Some sage advise I read from a regular Ashtangi.net yogini was that if you see clothing you really like, you should buy two. I took her advise to heart…and bought four last weekend.
It’s been obvious for a while that I could not longer credibly wear a 32 waist. I could now slide my pants down easily, without undoing the fly or button. I looked daft. I looked hip hop. So I gave my jeans and khakis to my Dad and…
bought new ones…in Atlantic City(which in the pantheon of ‘Not Yoga’ places, must be top 20) last weekend I dropped a wad of cash, not on the city’s famous ‘tables’, but rather at the Jockey and Banana Republic Outlet stores. Us Canadians we flock Stateside to spend our money these days – our wallets are flush with our multihued and ever more valuable notes – our dollar is now apparently deemed a ‘petrocurrency’ by the international money trading crowd. We swap them for an ever larger quantity of ‘greenback’ and feel rich. And no sales tax on clothing in New Jersey? Outrageous!
I spotted the perfect pair of pants at Banana Republic. Vintage style Khakis – ‘Gavins’ they call them at Banana Republic. But I saw them and recognized my quintessential pant – the ones I’ve looked for my entire adult life. Steve McQueen. The Great Escape. So I bought three in a crisp cool fabric (when I get to Mysore I’ll take them to a tailor – maybe that Sachin guy Caca went on about – and have him make like…I don’t know….fifteen or something. And then I bought one more in the thicker stuff you usually associate to the term ‘khaki’ – in deference to Canadian winters.
As for Jockey. Ten years ago I had it backwards; the quality was on the outside and the briefs would be from…Zellers or Giant Tiger or something – what difference did it make? Most people didn’t see you in your underwear. Now my thinking now is that ‘the closer to the skin, the better it needs to be’. Never mind what people see you in. So I dropped another pile at the Jockey Store. I was pretty excited about my new underwear…still am.
On the asana front, I’ve had two of the sweatiest most intense practices ever the last two days. Pushing myself with zeal through vinyasas and fading almost into sleep afterwards in Savasana. Amazing. I’ve felt truly purified afterwards.