United together under the blue sky

Yesterday, the Burlington yoga community hosted a truly beautiful event.  The fifth annual Yoga on Church Street commenced at 9AM and concluded around 11AM.  The event brought together a diverse community of practitioners and offered everyone a balanced and satisfying class together.  One wonderful aspect of the event was its emphasis on respect, including respect for all beings as well as our immediate selves.  Tibetan prayer flags gently danced overhead as a representative from the Center for Mindful Learning offered a simple yet heartfelt opening address.  In truth, the practice was simply freeing, accommodating all skill levels, with an emphasis on applying our yoga practice towards strengthen an awareness of the heart center.  Thereafter, an extensive holistic oriented raffle with light refreshments was held, in which all proceeds were donated to the Prevent Child Abuse Vermont foundation.

Photograph courtesy of Stephen Mease
Photograph courtesy of Stephen Mease

Yoga essentially means union.  In Book II of The Yoga Sutras, the great sage Patanjali refers to our collective practices aimed at promoting a state of union (or oneness) as kriya yoga (II.1).  Although Yoga on Church Street had little to do with philosophy, kriya yoga, reimagined as a means for obtaining oneness without grasping onto anything whatsoever, presents as a poignant theme which participation in the event helped me internalize.  Presently, while contemplatively gazing over Lake Champlain, I am struck by a brief realization, a reflection on the importance that mental clarity affords each of us as we ascribe meaningfulness to our personal experience.  Based on my own experience, I found Yoga on Church Street to be a truly meaningful event, and have no doubt that the whole Burlington community benefited vastly.  I greatly look forward to attending the event for years to come.

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4 thoughts on “United together under the blue sky

  1. Hello Ashtangi Bryan,
    Thank you for your thoughtful comments. I have been appreciating your blog fully. That being said the idea of oneness is not something that is put forth in Patanjali yoga; it is an idea of Vedanta not Patanjali yoga. Actually in reading the sutras you could infer that Patanjali is explaining the way for disunion. This dis-union is the realization of the purusha as being a distinct entity from prakriti.
    Patanjali’s philosophy comes from Samkhya philosophy, which essentially is saying that suffering comes from the identification of purusha with everything other than purusha, which is known as prakritit. Samkhya and Patanjali’s yoga say liberation comes from the realization of the purusha as distinct from prakriti : aka disunion. Kriya yoga is not applied for oneness, it is the practical method patanjali described for liberation of the purusha – which comes from the stilling of the mind; which Patanjali defined as yoga. Oneness is an aspect of some schools of yoga, but never really spoken of or emphasized in Patanjali’s sutras, as it’s system is a dualistic one. In it there is prakriti and purusha.
    Oneness is more correctly associated with Vedanta, which many systems of yoga have incorporated into their philosophy, however Patanjali did not. Oneness cannot be underestimated. There are many that think Patanjali’s system is not a complete one, as all it deals with is liberation, not what happens after liberation. Vedanta, however, does begin to deal with this. Some schools of Vedanta are explicit in realizing oneness, especially Advaita Vedanta.
    Thank you for your thoughts on yoga, I do enjoy them and look forward to more.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Hello Zach,

    Thank you for taking such an active interest in my blog. After reading your comment I feel as if I should have tabled my discussion of kriya yoga for a future post. Because, as much as I would like Patanjali’s kriya yoga to be similar to the kriya practices employed by millions of yoga practitioners worldwide, they are fundamentally different. And you are indeed correct, and I should not simply “reimagine” parallels where they do not really exist. Concerning oneness, what I am really proposing is a slight departure from the literal reading of book II. My dear Ashtanga yoga guru once told me that books II-IV were written to guide practitioners who found the teachings said in book I to be non-obvious. Influenced in such a way, I feel that Patanjali most likely emphases proper discernment (i.e. vivekakhyatih (II.26)) because he fears practitioners will equate ignorance to bliss. The early assertion that ignorance is the mother of all klesas supports this view (II.4). Additionally, the definition of samadhi formulated in book II reflects a contemplative mind state, not a blissful one, however samadhi is oftentimes interpreted as blissful union. I feel that Patanjali elucidates this discrepancy in book I. There is a deeper stage of samadhi referred to as asamprajnata samadhi, one which lacks the distinctions of the former (i.e. samprajnata samadhi), and may account for blissful union, or as I casually call it “oneness” (I.18). I tend to use the word oneness loosely, because a thorough discussion on samadhi seemed too excessive at the time I wrote the post, especially given the context, a community event review.

    In short, if I were to rewrite the article I would have tabled my discussion of kriya yoga. I would have referenced a different classic, one which directly talks about oneness, perhaps from the mahayana tradition. I do skeptically believe that Patanjali’s sadhana method contributes to a state of union, oneness, or asamprajnata samadhi, but not right away. Thank you for taking the time to write such a thorough and well thought out analysis of the Yoga Sutras and the history/development of yoga schools. You certainly taught me things I did not know. Likewise, I hope I gave you a few novel ideas to ponder over.

    Practice & Enjoy,
    Bryan

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    1. Hi Bryan,
      I read the comments on this union/dis-union, purusha/prakriti stuff. Interesting. For some reason bible verses I used to know came in my head. I looked them up – they are from the book of John. Stuff about God not being of this world, and talking about if someone loves this world, then she he cannot love God. So maybe if Pantanjali’s yoga is about separating the purusha (individual soul?)from the prakriti (all of this manifest world we inhabit?), then perhaps the purusha can then love God – whatever that may mean – especially since each little purusha is supposedly a small part of the Atman or whatever it’s called.
      I liked reading all this – u start very thought provoking conversations. And Zach did a bang-up job clarifying stuff I always ignored b/c it seemed too complicated to pay attention to. Om Namah Shivaya!

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      1. Hello Dimi,

        You are correct in saying that Isvara exclusively relates to purusha, not prakrita. I’d go further to say that the highest manifestation of purusha reflects a yearning towards Isvara (1:24). Yet practice and non-attachment are necessary in order to remove the mental obstacles which would otherwise eclipse this realization (1:12). I am glad you are arriving at your own conclusions given your faith-based roots.

        Om Shanti!

        Like

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