Taoism in Modern Yoga

Tao_Painting

It has recently started to become more and more apparent to me that Zen Buddhism, Taoism, yoga, Hinduism, and Jainism are all very inter-related, and that the western teaching of yoga is in fact much more than traditional (Krishnamacharya influenced) yoga based in Hinduism.

The definition of the Tao is a great replacement for the idea of what people really mean when they mention god, or the universe in modern context. The concept is almost completely equivalent to the Brahman (unchanging reality, universal life-force energy) of Hinduism.

A great definition of the eternal Tao:

“Look at it and do not see it: we call it invisible.

Listen to it and do not hear it: we call it inaudible.

Touch it and do not feel it: we call it subtle. . . .

Infinite and boundless, it cannot be named;

It belongs to where there are no beings.

It may be called the shape of no-shape,

It may be called the form of no-form.

Call it vague and obscure.

Meet it, yet you cannot see its head,

Follow it, yet you cannot see its back.” (chpt. 14)

As you can see, this fits perfectly as a substitute for Brahman, even the Zen concept of Nirvana. The eternal nothingness at the core of the somethingness of all of nature. They say that the normal human faculties are just not equipped to deal with this, very parallel to the Hindu idea of Maya, the illusion of consciousness. Buddhism just does away with it altogether and describes everything as illusory.

Really, the icing, cake, and decorations are all about forcing the body to breath in different ways, with gymnastic exercises for strengthening and purification of the body’s energies. Advanced techniques in all practices advise a lifting of the pelvic floor during breathing exercises. Mula Bandha. All focus on breath retention, seamless breathing, as well as forceful breathing in order to sit still and meditate for longer and longer periods of time.

Each has a medicinal system that compliments the physical practices of gymnastic and demanding physical posture, movement, and full body movements. All are focused on restoring the balances of energies in the body and aim for longevity, in many myths and legends giving rise to divine beings with superpowers.

All place emphasis on learning your own nature, learning how energy flows in the body, and aligning with a greater, universal nature. All place emphasis on detachment, especially from desire and quelling the senses.

All have very simple teaching that can take a lifetime to understand.

I don’t believe any one system is better or worse than another. They simply have different ways of teaching and expanding knowledge within the body and the mind. I know a lot of Ashtanga yogis want to believe that the six series ‘ARE THE ONLY PERFECT’ Series, but I find this to be a load of crap. The same crap Catholics spew when they tout the necessity of communion and how you need communion, reconciliation, or some other traditional method to be cleansed. There are always other ways. So maybe the primary series is great for learning, but like the bible, it is one source that we draw from when formulation hypothesis, or formulating our ideas about how things tend to operation and function. To view one path as superior is the only way to be wrong, because surely, an alternate path has the possibility to be better for a different person.

So I don’t drink cool-aid. If it seems to easy, then it is. Once you think you are right, you are wrong, so I stay skeptical because I haven’t been convinced by evidence yet. And the evidence would be the person in front of me.

This is why I think I came across the world to practice with a traditional guru in a traditional system (75 years old). Because I wanted to explore the experience and I knew that I would learn more about myself and my world in the process.

I’ll conclude by showing you a couple of ritualistic preparatory exercises used by Taoism and Ashtanga, which I find to be incredibly similar and yet depicts some of the different approaches to the same problem.

Translated opening incantation for Taoism:

“In my room, the seven jewels come together,

Doors and windows open of themselves.

Utter in my purity, I strive for deeper truth,

Riding on bright light, I ascend the purple sky.

Sun and moon shine to my right and left,

I go to the immortals and find eternal life.”

Opening chant of the Ashtanga Practice:

“I bow to the lotus feet of the Supreme Guru

which awaken insight into the happiness of pure Being,

which are the refuge, the jungle physician,

which eliminate the delusion caused by the poisonous herb of Samsara (conditioned existence).”

 

Ayurveda | आयुर्वेद

Ayruvedic Oils: from right to left, Lavender, Saffron oil, Sandalwood oil, Lotus oil

About 80% of the world’s population relies on tradition remedies for their health care needs. India has many alternative medical practices that date back over 5,000 years, alongside yoga in the Indus Valley Civilization.

Ayurveda means “knowledge of life” and includes the use of herbal medicines, mineral or metal supplementation (rasa shastra), surgical techniques, opium, probiotic, CannabisIndica, and application of oil bymassages. In the laboratory, Ayurvedic techniques have shown promise, however, due to the enormous amount of confounding variables associated with the healing techniques, many applications of Ayurveda have yet to be proven. Part of the reason for this is that Ayurveda is used to promote vitality, wellness, and optimal health, which is hard to measure in the body, compared to illness and  visible cellular degeneration.

The other reason that America has no idea about the effectiveness of Ayurveda is that there is little money in it. Almost all of the plants used grow naturally and are therefore unpatentable. However, I believe that Ayurveda has tremendous value in application and am going to explore the Indian knowledge of its uses while I am here. But it is very hard to find real scientific data behind the practice of Ayurveda here.

There is one major problem with Ayurveda; many of the processing and mixing techniques are not effective in mass production. This can lead to oils having too many heavy metals and toxic chemicals such as Mercury and Arsenic. The answer to this problem is toxicology and spectroscopy of the final produced products, which is not a readily available practice in India due to the economic circumstances. However, the higher quality oils are somewhat guaranteed, at least this is what I have learned from foreigners and locals alike. The best manufacturers create pure oils.

Within the first four nights of living in Mysore, I have met two of the major pure oil suppliers (not-mixed) and the most renown statue maker in India. All were very persuasive business men that I kind of had to dismiss because they were so interested in selling to me, partially because I am an American and partially because I am a potential customer. I’ll talk about the statue maker later with some of the Hindu religious practices, temples, and deities.

The first supplier was excellent. I could see the quality of his oil, pure, and the distributor assured me that they were highest quality and that he used them himself. He said there was only one distributor with higher quality oils than himself. I will be returning to him, but he sold me lavender, which I find to be extremely soothing and helps me to sleep. It also has anti-septic and anti-inflammatory properties and is relatively easy to find and process into oil.

The second supplier was even better. He assured me that he was the highest quality supplier in India and that Kino MacGregor and other yogis come to him personally to supply themselves with oil. He showed me letters from satisfied American customers and all had amazing things to say about him. If possible, I will be starting an export business in the US with him, which he agreed to. But I also stipulated that I would need toxicology reports on the chemical mixtures of the oils. He agreed, but has no idea how to do it. Maybe I can figure out how to use spectroscopy to measure this, but I am pretty sure I will need to find another partner skilled in pharmacology, or some similar discipline.

I bought Lotus oil, Saffron oil, and Sandalwood oil, all at very good prices $10 for 25mg. Saffron is very rare, it should last me a long time and is used for energy, known as a mood enhancer because of the way it interacts with serotonin in the gut, and is used to increase respiratory health. Lotus oil is used for meditation, but is relatively unstudied in the lab. Major uses include arthritis, diabetes, and fungal infections. Sandalwood oil is the final oil I bought and is used for mental health, focus, and raises blood pressure. All of the oils have anti-carcinogenic properties.

I am very satisfied with the quality of the oils, but I am really interested to learn more about how they interact with body chemistry and affect the different organs. It is really silly that we don’t know more about these basic remedies, instead of finding new chemicals that can be patented. It shows the corruption of the current American pharmaceutical industry, that is not interested in healthy people, but making money. It’s not really a criticism, just an objective observation. There is interest in helping people, but the corporations are not regulated appropriately to really produce the most efficient, quality results. The problem again, is mass consumption and production instead of personalization and customization for the unique qualities of each individual.

Here are a few more pictures from the last few days:

Mysore Garbage Collectorbuilding_under_construction desolation in India indian_workers