Instead of reacting to life without awareness, choose to respond with care and wisdom
Yoga has come a long way from its ancient roots. The milieu in which we practise nowadays is vastly different from that of a thousand years ago. In the olden days, the yogi was practising alone. Now people practise in groups. Yoga was mostly about meditation and pranayama. Now it is mostly about asana. There was little in the way of props then. Now there is a plethora of props to assist us.
This transition has largely been due to the expansion of yoga. What was a solitary practice of a few individuals has become a mass movement. This carries with it the seeds of great positive potential. But to use this moment wisely, we must reflect as we carry this shift forward, blending the best of ancient wisdom with modern progress.
Where are its roots?
What is the origin of a subject, concept, or even a person? Why do we want to know this information? With it, we are able to take a reasoned guess about the nature of the object, subject, or person.
If knowledge or practices arise from roots that are well researched and widespread, they are likely to be more useful and sound. Also if the origin of an idea is well supported in ancient texts, that fact tells us that the idea may have greater validity. If the origin of an idea is the experience of a single individual, or only my own experience, I should probably view that idea with more care.
Our births determine many things about us. Our genes are a big factor in our health and outlook on life, both physical and mental. The circumstances of our lives also dictate our paths, to a point. Our subconscious minds, with the latent impression of all our past actions and experiences (samskaras, as they are known in Sanskrit), bring forth reactions to all situations. We feel and think even without knowing it! On the one hand, it seems that much of life is not in our hands. But there is free will and choice.
We can decide to think, feel, and act differently. Instead of reacting to life without awareness, we can choose to respond with care and wisdom. That is the root of personal transformation. That is the root of yoga.
We can effect no real or lasting transformation without this stream of awareness interposed between situation and reaction. This conscious effort is the basis of yoga. It is this effort that brings about the changes all the way from a distracted mind to complete focus or samadhi.
Though a certain capacity for concentration or calmness can be inherited, as can their opposites, it is fundamentally the effort of the individual that determines his progress on the yoga path. The sons of saints can be sinners, and the daughters of sinners can be saints; history bears ample testimony to this fact. Thus yoga is not inherited; it is passed on not from guru to child, but from guru to seeker.
Discipline and wisdom in practice determine the quality of the disciple and his progress in yoga, not merely an accident of birth.
Transformation is not a birthright. It has to be earned. In the nation of transformation, there are no citizens by birth. We are all travellers.
This article appeared in The Hindu newspaper.