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Philosophy Podcast E24: Yoga Sutras I : 12 – 16

Exploring the deeper reality of self and mind…

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Explore the spiritual philosophy of India and see how it applies to your own life and situations. Host Sujantra McKeever of San Diego, CA, is the author of 5 books. He leads you on a journey to the East that ends up back in your own backyard. We hope you find an insight that truly hits home.

Ep 24: The Yoga Sutras I : 12- 16: Exploring the deeper reality of self and mind.

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Philosophy Podcast E22: Yoga Sutras I 12 – 15

Practice and non-attachment are the keys to progress…

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Explore the spiritual philosophy of India and see how it applies to your own life and situations. Host Sujantra McKeever of San Diego, CA, is the author of 5 books. He leads you on a journey to the East that ends up back in your own backyard. We hope you find an insight that truly hits home.

Ep 22: Practice and non-attachment are the keys to progress.

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Philosophy Podcast E17: Yoga Sutras I: 8 – 10

Sujantra shares more of his insights into the Yoga Sutras; exploring the fluctuations of mind…

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Explore the spiritual philosophy of India and see how it applies to your own life and situations. Host Sujantra McKeever of San Diego, CA, is the author of 5 books. He leads you on a journey to the East that ends up back in your own backyard.

Ep 17: Sujantra shares more of his insights into the Yoga Sutras; exploring the fluctuations of mind…

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Philosophy Podcast E16: Yoga Sutras I 4 – 9

Sujantra expounds on the The Yoga Sutras 4-9. Explore the ways our minds meander…

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Explore the spiritual philosophy of India and see how it applies to your own life and situations. Host Sujantra McKeever of San Diego, CA, is the author of 5 books. He leads you on a journey to the East that ends up back in your own backyard.

Ep 16: Sujantra expounds on the The Yoga Sutras 4-9. Explore the ways our minds meander…

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Philosophy Podcast E15: Yoga Sutras 1- 4

Learn the essence of yoga philosophy by studying the ancient Patanjali text, The Yoga Sutras…

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Explore the spiritual philosophy of India and see how it applies to your own life and situations. Host Sujantra McKeever of San Diego, CA, is the author of 5 books. He leads you on a journey to the East that ends up back in your own backyard.

Ep 15: Learn the essence of yoga philosophy by studying the ancient Patanjali text, The Yoga Sutras.

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Yoga Sutras – Om

When I meditate I always begin and end my practice by chanting Om…

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When I meditate I always begin and end my practice by chanting Om. It’s like stepping through a portal. I usually chant it several times until I really feel a strong connection/punctuation… I chant it externally. Then I chant it internally. The vibration in my throat stops but the vibration in my heart-universe continues.

The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali, expounded upon by Swami Vivekananda (also see) in his book, Raja-Yoga, particularly addresses the use of the syllable Om in aphorism 27 (The word that manifests Him is Om.) and 28 (The repetition of this (Om) and meditating on its meaning [is the way]).

Tom on Harmonium

What is God’s name?

I find it interesting that try as we might, it is impossible to put a definitive name to ‘God.’ Every thought in the mind has a corresponding word, a symbol. Thought and word are inseparable. If the symbol (word) corresponds to the thing signified then we are assured that there is a valid relationship: the symbol can then conger the thought. However, many symbols, many words can represent the same thought.

Vivekananda posits that there might be hundreds of words for ‘God’ across the globe. But there must be some underlying generalization that can be distilled from all these names. There must be some common ground in all these names. That common name would then best represent them all.

Patanjali suggests the common ground is Om.

Notice a variety of ‘God’-names: God, Yahweh, Jehovah, Allah, Brahma, Shiva, Buddha… notice that each name contains the syllable, ‘Ah,’ closely corresponding to the first part of the pronunciation of the syllable Om (or AUM, Ahh-Ooo-Mmm). Speculating that someone from England might not recognize the Pakistani or Japanese word for ‘God,’ for example, never-the-less both might be familiar with Om and would recognize the underlying thought. It’s interesting to note that many ‘God’-names are preceded by adjectives to qualify them, like Personal God, Absolute God, Christian God, etc., limiters. Yet Om requires no qualifiers, having around it all significances.

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Repetition of Om and Meditation on its Meaning

Whether vocalized or silent, repetition of Om creates vibrational energy in our bodies, minds and in the universe. As we have already determined Om to be divine, Vivekananda equates chanting Om to be, “…keeping good company with the mind.” And he suggest that, “One moment of company with the holy builds a ship to cross this ocean of life: such is the power of association.” So we repeat Om and meditate on its meaning. Om is the foundational expression for ‘God’ in this context. It is an utterance without qualification. The more it is repeated, the more it is considered, the greater the association and, “Thus light will come to you; the Self will become manifest.”

Swami Vivekananda

Swami Vivekananda (Image via Wikipedia)

Vivekananda really pushes the idea of keeping good company, specifically, good company with the purity of ‘God’ by virtue of repetition and meditation. We all have the old scars and wounds. We each have within us the potential for the greatest good or the greatest evil. Keeping evil company (thought, word, deed, associations, etc.) is like picking an open wound. It will manifest as a festering lesion. Repetition and meditation on the meaning of Om will bring to the surface those perhaps latent good impressions and qualities and build a strong foundation for introspection and the destruction of obstacles, those negative qualities which hinder our spiritual growth.

Chanting Om is as foundational as is breath. Ujjayi breathing is simply chanting Om using only the breath, foregoing vibrating the vocal chords.

When I first began my yoga life I truly thought the breath work was kind of trivial and silly; such a simple, almost inconsequential thing. I really didn’t see any real practicality about it. Most studios I frequented rarely chanted Om at the beginning and ending of a class. It was only that I was a singer that it finally dawned on me that breath control was so vital a part of the practice. My ‘home’ studio, Pilgrimage of the Heart Yoga Studio in San Diego, CA (my  employer) has always chanted Om at the beginning and ending of each class, one of several practices that endeared me to the studio.

Make the practice of chanting Om a daily endeavor.

Consider it’s meaning. Om is the unqualified expression of the divine. Let it spring forth from your heart as the first, the only and the last vibration… Be Om.

 

 

Featured image by MAMJODH, license.

 

 

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The dance of the cobra ~ Bhujangasana   

As a small child, I was often haunted by snakes. I remember running wildly through the rugged terrain near my home in the Los Angeles hills…

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by Teresa Austin

Childhood Snakes

As a small child, I was often haunted by snakes. I remember running wildly through the rugged terrain near my home in the Los Angeles hills with the raw anticipation of what I might encounter in my daily adventures. In the fraction of a second, though, my childhood glee would be halted and my breath stopped. A snake and I would meet. My spine would tingle in fear and anticipation as to what this mysterious creature would do. Would it see me? Would it strike? Not only was I suspended in fear, but truly hypnotized by its powerful energy.

Little did I know that years later, I would come back to my childhood snakes, but this time in the form of yoga, in the great pose bhujangasana – cobra pose, and that my spine would be awakened once again in wonder.

Pilgrimage Yoga Online

It is no wonder that snakes have had an important role in India for thousands of years. From the magical snake charmer seducing the venomous cobra out of its basket, to the mythical 1,000 headed serpent, Shesha Naga, India has long held serpents to be sacred. The mysterious animals were thought to be relatives to the Naga people, the ancient warrior tribe, which is believed to have dispersed throughout India around the time of the epic Mahabharata.

Cobra

The Celebration of the Snake, Nag Panchami

Animal worship has played an important role in India’s national culture for thousands of years. The celebration of the snake, Nag Panchami, is a festival that celebrates the snake, and all it represents: death, rebirth, and immortality. Devotees sprinkle turmeric, vermillion and flowers on snakes to honor their role in nature.

Some Hindu gods like Shiva, the god of destruction and transformation, and Vishnu, the god of preservation, are pictured with the cobra enfolded around them. Even Buddha is often represented cradled within the great snake. Vishnu is often seen reclining on one of the folds of the great serpent Shesha, who weaves throughout the celestial waters of the Milky Ocean. With the symbolic role that snakes have played in Indian culture, it is no surprise, that Patanjali, the great compiler of the yoga sutras and the forefather of modern yoga, is believed to have been an avatar of Shesha.

Kundalini energy is believed to reside in the realm of the great sleeping serpent who is coiled along the base of the spine, and once awakened through devout meditation, slithers up the spine toward the pineal gland and through the crown chakra ultimately moving one into divine Selfhood.

 

Cosmic God

 

The Practice

Like the snake that sheds its skin over and over again, we too shed our skin, over and over again, each time we come to our yoga practice. In each shedding, an energetic rebirth has the potential to take place.

Of course it is important to keep our spines supple and strong like the great serpent. For it is our beloved spine that holds us up and allows us to continue to move throughout life.

In elegant bhujangasana, or cobra pose, we get to know our spine. It is along the lines of the spine that we channel our inner cobra. Cobra not only provides back strength, but also massages our precious digestive organs, stimulating the swadhisthana and manipura chakras

In its full fruition, before it is ready to dance into attack, the cobra raises its great hood, just as we do, as we inhale our hearts forward. The snake also moves between the light of day and the darkness of the underground. Inhaling, we lift our cobra-hoods towards the light (joy); exhaling, we drop our hearts back down towards the earth into darkness (contemplation).

Cobra Pose

Snakes also teach us that we too should we be more in tune with our “gut instincts” as snakes are aware of their surroundings through their bellies as they feel the reverberations of the earth around them.

Let our breath then, our mystical snake charmer, seduce the energy of our snake spines to emerge vibrant and alive! And just like the mystical snake charmers who were thought to have strong ties to the gods due to their magical ways with cobras, we too can energetically tap into that divine space that resides along the lines of our beloved spine through the power of the ever graceful and strong bhujangasana.

 

Teresa AustinTeresa Austin is the creator of Myth Asana®, a progressive yoga practice that infuses mythology and symbolism within the beauty and strength of yoga. She has been a practitioner of yoga for over 20 years and a teacher for 10 years. Teresa was a world mythology teacher for many years and currently is finishing up her 1000 hour yoga therapy certification specializing in the power of symbolism and storytelling in a therapeutic setting. Her dvd is available at www.mythasana.com .

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Is Brahmacharya a Life without Sex?

Brahmacharya is one of the key elements of yoga. Some think of Brahmacharya as a life without sex. Others see it as…

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Brahmacharya is one of the key elements of yoga.

Some think of Brahmacharya as a life without sex. Others see it as a general attitude towards life. Lets begin by exploring Brahmacharya as an aspect of yoga.

The path of yoga was codified over 2000 years ago by the yogi and scholar Patanjali. He expressed yoga as having eight yoga, aspects or limbs, like the branches of a tree. I think it is helpful to conceptualize organically, where different aspects are integrated simultaneously. Neither yoga nor life moves in a purely linear fashion.

The first two limbs of the tree of yoga are known as the yamas and niyamas. I would define the yamas as “moral & ethicalethical principles,” and the niyamas as disciplines and conduct.

Brahmacharya is one of the 5 yamas. Literally speaking Brahmacharya means ‘the conduct ‘ (charya) that leads to Brahma, which is, in yoga philosophy, the experience of the Ultimate Reality. Buddhism would call this highest reality Nirvana; Christianity uses the term: the ‘Kingdom of Heaven within.’ Different names for the same river.

The question we each must ask is “what actions and experiences of mine will move me closer to this ultimate reality and what actions and experiences will move me further away.” It is deep in our spiritual hearts and conscience that we each find the answers for ourselves.

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Brahmacharya and sexual relations

Historically speaking, in the ancient indian texts brahmacharya refers to one of the four stages of life. This first stage—brahmacharya–is the ‘student’ life. This is the period just before puberty and up until marriage. It is characterized by spiritual and secular study and strict adherence to the yamas: non-violence, truthfulness, not-stealing; not-receiving gifts and strict celibacy. In the yamas this celibacy is also referred to as brahmacharya. So the word brahmacharya refers to both a stage of life and sexual abstinence.

Monasticism

In monastic traditions, both Eastern and Western, celibacy, or abstinence from sexual relations is considered one of the foundations of the spiritual life. While this is often a life-long practice limited periods of abstinence are also an integral part of many spiritual traditions.

The basic idea of sexual-abstinence is that the same energy that fuels our sexuality, including our sexual thoughts, also fuels our spiritual quest. This energy is the creative force of the universe. Each of us needs to decide how and when we will utilize abstinence in our own lives and how and when to express our sexuality.

–Sujantra

Sujantra speaks more on brahmacharya in his video Brahmacharya.

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The Roots of Yoga of Patanjali

Ancient Philosophy – Yoga is a great way to make your body and nervous system strong, balanced and flexible…

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Ancient Philosophy

Yoga is a great way to make your body and nervous system strong, balanced and flexible. Yoga is also an ancient Indian philosophical system through which you can experience uplifting and mystical states of awareness. Yoga mean ‘to yoke, to bring together.’ Through yoga you can experience the unity, the oneness of the individual and the universal. In the yoga philosophy this is called “Samadhi.” It is an awareness of the “heaven within” or nirvana. This spiritual ecstacy and the joy it brings to life is the goal of yoga.

Yoga is one of the six ancient philosophies of India. The other areas of study were: grammar, mathematics, ethics, astronomy and metaphysics. From these emerged sciences such as astrology, ayurveda, hatha yoga and modern mathematics.

The Yoga Sutras and Vivekananda

The codification of yoga was done over 2000 years ago by the sage Patanjal and is known as the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali. The writing is composed of 196 concise statements, most no more than a sentence or two. Various commentators, both ancient and modern, have elaborated these sutras. My favorite translation was written at the beginning of the 19th century by Swami Vivekananda, one of the first yogis to bring Indian philosophy to the West at the Parliament of Religions in 1893. His book is entitled Raja Yoga.

The yoga sutras are divided into 4 chapters which describe the basic principles of yoga, the actual practices of yoga, the powers that arise through yoga and an elaboration on the higher states of consciousness attained through yoga.

It is interesting to note that only 2 or 3 actual postures—asanas—, are described in the writing and both are related to asanas for meditation and pranayama. Patanjali says the postures should be “firm but pleasant” in order to free the mind from bodily awareness.

The Yamas and More

Most relevant to modern Western yogis are the sutras in chapters 2 and 3 which describes yoga as being composed or 8 limbs or aspects. It is in these sutras that Patanjali talks about the Yamas—moral injunctions; the Niyamas—daily observances; Asana—the postures with which we are so familiar in the west, Pranayama—breath control, Pratyahara—the inward turning of the senses; Dharana—concentration; Dhayana—meditation and the ultimate Samadhi—the liberation of consciousness.

Learn more about the specifics of the yoga sutras through our videos and writings. Namaste.

Sujantra

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Aparigraha: Don’t be Beholden

Freedom is the goal of yoga. This freedom is liberation from the bondage of egotism and desire. To be free is to be conscious…

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Freedom is the goal of yoga. This freedom is liberation from the bondage of egotism and desire. To be free is to be conscious and grateful for being part of the unconditional joy and brilliance of existence.

Through our interactions with others we often ensnare ourselves in unnecessary and unsatisfying obligations and expectations. This does not free us – it binds us. One of the yamas: aparigraha directly speaks to this.

Expectation

One of the ways that we bind ourselves is by accepting things from others knowing that in their giving there are also expectations. They might expect certain reactions from us or expect specific things in return. Think of the politician who accepts donations knowing he will be called on to do the bidding of the donor.

At times, people do things for you with the expectation that you will do something for them. They come to your party and expect you to go to theirs. They feel a certain way and expect you to feel the same. Unconditional love and giving is a wonderful thing in life. It liberates us. Conditional love and giving ensnares us.

Vivekananda

For this reason aparigraha can be thought of as the “non-receiving of gifts.”* Isn’t the joy and beauty of life found in giving and receiving? Yes, but not when by receiving we enter the world of expectation. In those cases it is better not to take or give but to remain out of the situation. Won’t we just end up isolated and alone in life? Far from it! By identifying unhealthy situations and circumstances you also learn to identity healthy ones. Moving into realms of pure and unconditional emotion will lift you into the blissful freedom of yogic living.

*Raja Yoga by Swami Vivekananda

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The Ahimsa (non-violence) Dilemma, #1

The yogic journey begins with 5 moral injunctions—the yamas(Ahimsa, Satya, Asteya, Brahmacharya and Aparigraha)

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The yogic journey begins with 5 moral injunctions—the yamas(Ahimsa, Satya, Asteya, Brahmacharya and Aparigraha)—, which create harmony and balance in ones actions and thoughts. By bringing these ethical principles into one’s own life we create the fertile soil for personal growth.

The Yamas

The first, and I think foundation of all the yamas is called ahimsa, which can be translated as non-violence (ultimately in thought, word and deed!) Bringing these principles into one’s life is a very personal and subjective act; hence we will be faced with challenges and dilemmas when it comes to applying these principles.

Dilemma #1: Non-violence and Yoga

If someone is about to strike me should I let him or her strike me (therefore I am not being violent) or should I strike him or her first to prevent him or her from striking me? For a visual reference, think of Martin Luther King and his non-violent marchers getting brutalized by police with fire hoses, batons and police dogs.

If I follow yogic non-violence literally I will not strike back (hence, I am not being violent) but I am allowing violence to occur (me being hit.) Is there a difference between performing the violent act and allowing it to happen? Also, if I allow another to be violent am I allowing more violence to occur in the universe than if I simply stayed home and meditated?

Well, what do you think?

–Sujantra

 

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