Challenge Day 21- Unity
The origin of the word yoga in Sanskrit comes from the Sanskrit word “yuj” which means to yoke, join, unite, or add. However, it is entirely too simplistic to say that yoga simply means to unify.
The quality of the mind to unify with its object of attention can be either beneficial or harmful to the quest of spiritual liberation. Much as joining a group or organization may be positive or negative based on what characteristic the affinity cultivates, the impact of unity is depending on what exactly it is your mind, body and soul are in fact unifying with.
According to Patañjali, the mind’s conflation of the true and the untrue is the root cause of suffering in life. Called, “samyoga” the delusional inability to delineate between truth and untruth, permanent and impermanent, unmanifest and manifest, Purusha and Prakrti is an ignorant state called avidya. The factually wrong conflation of two distinct entities as the same, or, worse, identifying the permanent as impermanent and the impermanent as permanent, is the core fuel for the painful cycle of egoic attachment and aversion. Yoga, as it is taught by Patañjali leads yoga aspirants down a path of wisdom (Viveka) whose end-goal is the ability to finally see the truth clearly, revealed in the pure light of knowledge.
The questions of yoga are the deepest questions one can ask about life. Who are you? Where do you come from? Where will you go when this life ends? What is life? Is there a soul? What is your true nature? What is the true nature of life?
These existential questions cannot be answered by mere theory. While an intelligent person can theorize and discuss these topics in perpetuity, the entire premise of yoga is built on the foundation of personal practice. Yoga says that there is no theoretical answer to what your true nature is that can supersede direct experience. But yoga says that through practice you can experience your true nature, and also the true nature of all things, life, and yes, even God. The intellect, according to yoga, can only go so far. The mind can only think its way through to a certain level of reality. But, the faculty of pure awareness can experience a level of reality that far exceeds intellect. In other words, yoga primes the mind and body to be a vessel for transcendental experience, wisdom that is revealed.
But, still, what exactly does a yogi experience that can possibly reveal the true nature of being? Certainly the answer cannot be found with one’s leg behind the head or in a handstand press. While the poses are certainly useful, the work done in asana is a foundation for experience but not the experience itself.
Tat Tvam Asi is a Sanskrit phrase that can be roughly translated as “Thou art that”. This phrase is one of the core teachings of the Sanatana Dharma, the high teaching of the Vedas. Some traditional Indian philosophical schools take this phrase to mean that you are created of the same substance as God. Others say that it means you are a servant of God. Others still say the phrase means that the individual soul and the soul of God are one, in unity. Finally, some say that it means you are one with all things. One thing is true—Tat Tvam Asi speaks directly to the nature of being, even if the answer to the question of exactly what it is referring to still remains. What exactly is the “that” which thou art. When you find the answer to that question you will also find what yoga intends for every being to unify with. In the meanwhile, yoga says, keep practicing, keep searching.
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