ब्रह्मन्/Brahman, God, and Death

Brahman is a Hindu concept describing the energy force behind the universe, the unchanging truth of why the universe is, and the source behind it. This is very different from the god Brahma, who is known as the creation aspect of the divine pantheon and is a part of the Trimurti with Shiva and Vishnu. He is not regarded in quite the same way as the great cosmic spirit, which is everlasting and greater even than the Hindu deities as the source behind creation and sustenance of the cosmos.

Jiva-muktis or liberated beings are human beings that have realized Brahman and thus their become aware of their true self; described as consciousness bliss and the highest achievable reality. However, this type of self-actualization does not accord with the Buddhist ideals of enlightenment, nirvana, which denote an awareness of the nothingness inside and with this awareness great peace and release from suffering.

Brahman in modern-day Hinduism denotes absolute reality, unchanging, the source and return of all things. Within the Hindu religion, this is an argued point and even Buddhism denotes Brahman’s as divine forms having attained Nirvana. Certain Buddhist and Hindu schools seem to collide here, though it happens later in the Buddhist tradition when scholars begin to identify Nirvana with Brahman. But the Buddha seems to have rejected the idea, saying that the desire from Brahman leads to suffering. He could find no evidence of the personal, or cosmic soul. Jains completely reject the idea of a creator god, because the universe has always been.

Brahman denotes the cosmic god that many people of the modern west refer to as “the universe”. It is the idea of cosmic divine energy that is representing when saying Namaste and recognizing the divine in another. In this way, Brahman is inherently Hindu because of their belief in the divine unison of all things.

Atman is a Sanskrit word that means inner-self or inner soul. To obtain liberation, a human must acquire self-knowledge to realize that one’s true self is identical with that of the transcendent Brahman. This refers to the Hindu idea of breaking down the body to get to the divine soul within. This is the Hindu path to enlightenment, through one of the schools of yoga. It is through realization of the Brahman within that on attains enlightenment, according to the Hindu traditions.

Dharma

dharma

The concept of Dharma is elusive to describe due to the complexity of the concept; it does not translate directly into english and is a complex esoteric Indian term to describe a vocation, calling, or path of righteousness that an individual follows in life. This extends out to the dharma of the world as a whole, which is either aligned or imbalanced (in which case it will soon be rebalanced). The idea exists in all of the Indian religions, most notably Buddhism and Hinduism, where Dharma is considered to be the path of duty and virtue that is right with the order of the universe. The path is righteous and winds in accordance with the laws of Karma until the cycle of Samsara is broken and Maya gives way to Moksha. The ultimate journey Dharma leads to the doorway of enlightenment.

Enlightenment is the unlocking of the mind and freedom from the illusions of consciousness, more particularly thoughts. Thoughts take away from your ability to be present and receive the beauty and feel of the world around you, so at this point in the evolution of consciousness they are not necessary. Union is felt between all beings and awareness is supreme, a light against the darkness of ignorance. At least that is what it is supposed to be like.

Ultimately, enlightenment has to be a spectrum, relative, as all things are. People that push the envelope, disrupt, change us, evolve us, these are the ones that are bringing enlightenment to the world. Martin Luther King, Gandhi, modern musicians, peace advocates, technologists pushing the world forward like Steve Jobs and Bill Gates are all people bringing enlightenment to our lives, but its hard to get to the truth of their lessons in the face of the lies that we are told from our first thoughts.

“(stop thinking) just do it”
“What’s (missing) in your wallet?)”
“The best part of waking up (is our shit coffee) in your cup”

We are bombarded with commercials and TV that convinces us to think about things certain ways that do not in any way conform to reality. Many people in the world succumb to the illusion that the world depends on things, when in fact the world depends upon human time. Instead of being focused internally, many are focused externally on survival, on being able to feed hungry mouths and try to win measures of comfort and vacations from your job that allow some measure of relaxation and bliss in an otherwise unfulfilling lifestyle. But the world is slowly changing.

People are learning to prosper and how to share abundance. Nice things are only as nice as the people you can share them with and comfort is something that every human should have access to, but we are slowly learning how to take care of ourselves. The world is still divided and disconnected, but slowly it is connecting itself, using tools like the internet, cell phones, satellites, and so much more. We have hope for the future because it seems like a mass awakening is occurring, people are waking up.

Practices like yoga and meditation are quickly becoming very available to the wealthy of the world, and soon after, the noble arts of internal surrender, meditation, reflection, breathing exercises, and energy movement will become available to everyone. In order to truly unite the world, people must unite through action; words mean nothing and have no weight when it comes to character. People are going to learn to prosper in ways that the world has never before know. I strongly believe that yoga is going to be one of those ways, I think the world is going to reform with the spread of eastern philosophies and ideas in the West.

The world is learning to find its Dharma. The question of dharma beckons the questions of existence: Why does life exist? Does life have a purpose? What is the next step of evolution? Dharma attempts to answer these questions by saying that it is life’s purpose to be lived fully, completely. The next step of evolution is peace and life was meant to flourish and spread and unite the universe in life. Being is the purpose of all things.

Dharma can also be considered vocational, or like a job. For instance, a doctor would have a dharma of helping sick people, or a computer programming would have a dharma of making more efficient algorithms for people to connect through the internet. I believe I find my dharma through teaching and practicing yoga, but it is far more complicated than just that. Music, traveling, friends, and family to name a few factors.

According to Hinduism, the stability of the universe is dharma, the earth, gravity, the laws of physics are all propagated by this righteous force that is leading life. Dharma is intrinsically related to truth, or the natural and changeless state of all things, also known as Satya. The Buddha is the one that lived Dharma and his release into nirvana gives a model for us to follow.

I think that perhaps the way to the true core of your being, of find your true dharma, is through silence and being alone. The buddha was alone for extended periods of time, many believe that Jesus was isolated as an Essene for his formative years, and many of the most famous transcendentalists isolated themselves. So did the most famous of philosophers. It gets to the core of your humanity, what is at the base of your existence. Your temporality.

I think this is what I am going to try to do in India. See how much stillness I can find within myself. Maybe on the way I’ll find some truth.

The 8 Limbs of Yoga (Part 8: Samādhi | समाधि)

Samadhi

Samadhi is the 8th and final limb of yoga. Samadhi is a state of concentrated meditation that transcends the intellect, mind, and body and complete detachment from the physical world (meaning consciousness becomes detached from the body). This final stage of yoga is also known as enlightenment and can be achieved in Corpse Pose, after meditation involving Dharana and Dhyana. In this state, the yogi can suspend consciousness away from the body, being at one with the environment and surroundings while not being limited to physical restraints of the body. Samadhi represents a state of enlightenment and over time the yogi obtains a ceaseless state of transcendent bliss.

In Buddhism, Samadhi is known as the 8th wheel of the eightfold path referring to right concentration. Buddhists believe that this right concentration leads to extraordinary intelligence and even superpowers. But these are simply distractions for the practitioner from the goal of Moksha, or liberation. Samadhi leads to a pleasantness in your current life, knowledge of the divine third eye by concentration on light, clear comprehension of the fluctuations of feelings, perceptions, and thoughts through mindfulness, and the elimination of the 5 Skandha’s (attachments to matter, sensation, perception, mental habits, and discernment). In Buddhism, Samadhi does not refer to enlightenment, rather a state of concentrated meditation that leads to enlightenment. Nirvana is enlightened freedom from attachment and Samsara through Moksha.

Samadhi is a state of supreme detachment, where consciousness is free to leave the body and can expand beyond the borders of the physical corpse of the consciousness. It is a supreme state of bliss that is experienced in Savasana, or in meditation after a yoga practice is completed. This is why you don’t skip Savasana! Meditate after your yoga practice, it is far more powerful after the body has been tempered. The sensations and insights that flow during these meditation can alter your perspective and even mental processes that can change. It is integral to the yoga practice to rest in Savasana and meditate; they are the most important things you can do to amplify the healing and regenerative qualities of yoga.

Samadhi is intricately related to consciousness. It can be described as full awareness, perfect concentration, or an altered state of consciousness characterized by ananda and sukha (bliss and joy). Vyasa, one of the authors of the Mahabharata, said ‘yoga is Samadhi’. It is ultimately complete control over the fluctuations of consciousness including distractions and normal functionality of the nervous system and conscious experience.

Patanjali said that Samadhi has three different aspects: Savikalpa, Asamprajnata, and Nirvikalpa. In Savikalpa the mind is still conscious and the imagination is active and the state can be described as holding onto the imagination with effort. Asamprajnata is a step forward from Savikalpa and is not quite gross awareness, but is a heightened state of conscious awareness. Nirvikalpa is the highest transcendent state of consciousness, the highest of the heights of yoga. It is an engrossing awareness where all things are one and pure unadulterated bliss, wholeness, and perfection are experienced. It is pure joy, freedom, and steady bliss in the knowledge of awareness.

Samadhi is like balancing blocks on top of one another, where it takes years to learn all of the nuances of each block and how they work together. Simply allowing the body to meditate is not enough; full concentration and focus is required to obtain the state of pure freedom.

The final liberation of the yogi comes at the time of death, known as mahasamadhi and is a controlled exit of the consciousness from the body to merge consciousness with the divine. Maha means great.

I would like to dedicate this post to BKS Iyengar, who died this morning, one of the greatest (yoga) teachers the world has ever known. My hope is that he found mahasamadhi in his last hours and that he has found the freedom and peace beyond. He brought yoga into the west and gave everyone seemingly limitless knowledge on even the most minuscule and minute details. He gave us in the west the opportunity to scale the heights of Raja yoga and changed the world for the better. Thank you.

Sutra | सूत्र

sutra

A sutra is an aphorism, or collection of aphorisms in a manual or script from Buddhism, Hinduism, or Jainism. Siv means thread or line holding things together, which likely literally referred to the palm leaves used to write the manuscripts. This separates them from the Vedas which were passed down orally until recently. This form of literature was designed for concision, or using the least amount of words necessary to convey an idea, and were meant to be memorized and learned via scientific self-study, also known as Svadhyaya.

A sutra is a bit different in Jainism compared to Buddhism and Hinduism. In Jainism, Sutra refers to the canonized sermons of Mahavira contained in the Jain Agamas, and to some later (post-canonical) normative texts. The Jain Agamas are known as the canon of Jainism and explain the religion. 

In Buddhism, a sutra refers mostly to the canon the Gautama Buddha. Some think that the Buddhist usage of sutra was actually a mis-translation of sutta which the Buddha used to describe his first teachings. This is supported by the early Buddhist sutras; they do not present the aphoristic, nearly cryptic nature of the Hindu sutras, even though they were also designed for oral memorization. They share characteristics of “good news” of the Jain sutras.

An Aphorism is a greek word, meaning definition or distinction. Hypocrates was the first Greek to coin the term and the first sentence of his work using them was the following: ‘Life is short, art long, opportunity fleeting, experience deceptive, judgment difficult.’ In Hinduism, the terms is used for descriptions of phyiscal, metaphysical, moral, philosophical, or a concise statement containing a subjective truth or astute observation. Patanjali’s 196 yoga sutras are the basis for Ashtanga yoga, where Patanjali aggregated previous works on yoga to formulate and create the 8 limbs of yoga.

It seems like every teacher is trying to find new aphorisms to deliver to their classes, insights about cultural life in America and other aspects of life in the 21st century. Its just an observation, but it seems to be a basis for how the human mind functions, that we repeat memorized snippets that resonate with our intellect, our feelings, or whatever. The yoga sutras are extremely complex and cryptic, especially considering the diverse knowledge surrounding their creation, origin, and evolution over the hundreds of years that they have existed.

What sayings speak to you? Brian Kest has a quote that I can’t forget, “try to find a sweet spot that’s between too much and not enough, then try to stay there.” Sharing is caring…. 🙂

Patanjali on partial understanding

“Uncertain knowledge giving rise to violence, whether done directly or indirectly, or condoned, is caused by greed, anger, or delusion in mild, moderate, or intense degree. It results in endless pain and ignorance. Through introspection comes the end of pain and ignorance.”

<> – Patanjali (most believe this personification of the yoga guru to be a compilation of ancient Hindu philosophers, rather than an individual)

This quote refers to acting according to uncertain knowledge and how it leads towards painful experiences. Just knowing a part of the story is not enough to act or truly understand a situation; this is why detachment from the situation is important. Then you can examine which variables that are unknown as decide what is likely, while detaching from the conclusion as well. Then no matter the situation or outcome, the yogi is peaceful, calm, and happy. I think that partial knowledge is perfectly useful, but action should be carefully examined before acting on a partial understanding.

Riding an edge

It seems like no matter what you are doing, you are always trying to find a balance between two opposing forces. It happens in surfing, snowboarding, biking, running, swimming, football tackles, rugby, relationships, daily routines, and even yoga. And when you’re riding an edge, time seems to slow, I really think it can signify true growth.

In yoga, its that edge of discomfort that becomes relaxation at the end of a class or practice. Starting to stretch initially isn’t too fun for anyone. But once you get started, it just feels so good, spending an hour and a half doing becomes easy. Hot yoga also boasts some incredible health benefits, and one of the cool things that it allows for is riding edges within your body.

So similar to a surfer riding a wave, or a skier plowing down a mountain at full speed, yogis experience a deepening and fulfilling practice because they get to see what their body is capable of. It is a deepening practice with fulfilling rewards.

Riding edges also allows people to dissolve their limits. No one really knows what they are capable of, they just have ideas and expectations. Expectations can be dangerous, because you don’t react to what is presently before you, you react to what used to be.Image