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Beer & Fart Yoga

Beer & Fart Yoga

(and the yoga of restraint)


Already read Part I&2? Click Here to scroll down to Part III


Contrary to the thoughts and feelings of the person next to you, letting out a good fart may be more yogic than a lot of other things described as yoga these days; and letting out a bad fart is far more healthy than holding it in. However, there is a time and place for everything. Nude Yoga and Goat Yoga [yes, those are actual yoga “styles”] might have some yogic content, but like a bad fart, you need not do it in a room full of people (esp not nude yoga with goats). Nevertheless, as yoga webs more into the dreamy world of dollar $igns, where every studio competes for attention to get o-so-refreshingly ahead, creative marketing often gets ahead of the actual aims of yoga; wherein the goals of actual yoga take a back seat to the goals of a (yoga) business.


Now before its realized that I am not inviting anyone to a free beer at our yoga studio, and interest is lost, let me talk about sex for a while. (..and as that gets boring we'll add some refreshing drugs and beer as we go along).


I once saw an ad for a yoga workshop at a giant yoga institute in MA (yeah, that one). It had a pic of a well known sexy yogini (yeah, that one) that was cut off at the breast line as it was to be presumed she was fully naked below that line, as it dripped with sexual innuendos; including the words "come as you are" highlighted in such a way that it blurred her nipples. ~Now, don't get me wrong. I'm all for nipples and at one time i couldn't live without them. Also, come as you are, is a fine slogan for being yourself, and a fine Nirvana song at that, but the meaning in this ad was very purposely mixed. In fact, subliminally, it was probably selling more sexuality than yoga; and yet sex had nothing to do with the actual topic of the workshop. I mean, if you don't want to mix the message about being yourself, then put a naked pic of Jim Carey or Ellen DeGeneres, or even the Buddha (he seemed to be mostly naked most of time anyway). Or fine, put the sexiest yogi you can find, but does her hair need to be wildly disheveled like she just got out of bed, and clearly mouth breathing (which is rarely-yogic and not at all indicative of a good night's rest). This is not to say anything bad about sexuality (or this famous yogini, she's amazing!) But we live in a world where nearly everything is sold by sex, everyone is made to believe if they aren't having sex all the time then something's wrong, then they aren't living their best life. And yet, there is more than plenty of sex addiction out there already. It doesn't need any help. No reminders are necessary to reinforce addiction within one of the world's largest industries, the"sex industry".


I remember once being on a yogic retreat at a center where it actually gave the participants a break from the outside world, and one of the guys mentioned, 'Wow, I just realized that I haven't thought about sex in quite a while. It's such a relief!' And, on another occasion a woman somewhat urgently asked me about tantra yoga, not knowing (like most people) what it is really about; but only that her boyfriend is really trying (pushing) her to get into it. My reply to her was, well, most people in the west don't really understand the true intentions of tantra. It is meant to move one from Pashu (the animalistic level of the mind that dwells within sense driven impulses) towards Divya (the higher levels of consciousness that are fixed upon Divine or heavenly impulses). Thus, tantra is meant to restrain and then re-channel one's addictive energies that they may be transmuted into more heavenly (rather than fleshly) aims. But tantra has largely been perverted into a practice that actually indulges and entraps one (actually many) into the baser levels of consciousness; whether it be thru sex or an endless number of other vices on the devil's menu. This is certainly not to say that sex is bad or should be repressed (as it certainly should not be repressed) but channeled towards a greater spectrum of life. For, like so many addictions, it sticks one's whole world into a box. Yoga wants us to get our head out of the box, to reach beyond a life completely indulged in the pleasures of the senses. However, this is done thru cultivating some level of restraint; which is not to be confused with repression, but a balanced use of the sex impulse; rather than indulgence. ~As I explained this, I saw the lights come on in her eyes, as she realized that the idea of indulging in sensual pleasures was more in line with her boyfriend's interest than any true yogic goals; and then she proceeded to tell me how the group he wanted them to get involved with was into sharing partners, as well. And, as she went on, it sounded like more of a swingers club than a yoga workshop. (Swingers Yoga, Yeah! Look for that to be the next big yoga trend!) But here is the ultimate point I'd like to make... well , 2 points:


(1) Again, there is a time and place for whatever yogic content may be a part of a tantra class, or whatever. But, like farting, it need not be in a room full of people. In privacy with one's partner is one thing, but in a room full of people with a wide variety of intentions for being there, well, that's marketing! And it is more of a craven fetish than a yoga practice; nor does it lead to any true power of restraint (the true intention of tantra). Rather, like any addiction, it leads to more and more addiction; becoming an unquenchable thirst. For we live in a world without restraints. In fact, we fight against anything that tries to impose any restraints upon us -even if it were to stop millions of sexual diseases, car crashes, accidental (or intentional) gun deaths, or endless illnesses and deaths related to things touted as "food" or "drink", and so on. And so, perhaps as Patanjali advised (and as we will get deeper into a few more paragraphs down), if we were to start working on a bit of the Yoga of Restraint (Yama Yoga) instead of spending so much time trying to unpolice ourselves, then we wouldn't need things like our political parties readying to fight to the death for one or the other. For, ultimately, it is for the lack of virtue (and particularly those which ask us to have a bit of restraint) that we must have, perhaps, any rules at all. But because society lacks any significant skills of restraint, and actually fights against such skills, we need so many rules and red tape. In other words, because we lack the ability to keep ourselves in check, society (gov't) will need to make rules that do it for us; and often it will fail miserably. Therein, those who actually have any skills in restraint (such as temperance, moderation, consideration; as well as some virtues you may not have thought of as having components of restraint, such as gentleness, thoughtfulness, cooperation and the ability to dialog rather than only debate, etc.) they meet with the greatest injustice from those who don't have those skills, want to fight against them, and actually claim that they are the one's who are being treated unjustly because we ask them to just pump their breaks a little bit.


(2) It is quite often not the yogic aspects that bring people to such alluring practices, it is the vice. The yoga is an excuse to indulge in the vice. But because it is done in the name of a "spiritual practice", it makes it all slip into the shadows of an ever darkening depravity. Sure, the Gun Fights for Peace rally might end with all attendees holding hands and singing Kumbaya, or especially a Beer Fest for Peace rally, but in the end it is the gun and the beer that has been celebrated most; and perhaps even before they ride off on their goats to the next tantric love fest, some kind of accident or abuse is literally, statistically, very likely to happen. And you don't need me to help you imagine the scenarios, esp when it comes to the goat.


On the other hand, when a yoga workshop does not involve beer, goats, tantra, etc, there is statistically a very low chance that some atrocity occurs. I mean, if it's truly a good yoga class, you shouldn't need a gun fight, orgy or even a beer after shavasana. In fact, I've had people tell me that they no longer need that drink at the end of the day to wind down. By replacing it with simple, good o'l fashioned yoga, their mental and physical health improved tremendously. But, on the contrary, someone once told me they attended a wine and yoga class in which they realized they were too sleepy to drive home, but then after they got home, they found they couldn't sleep that night (which is a common occurrence as liquor wears off.) (~ Wow! what a great yoga workshop! Sounds like the benefits were endless. Run and tell your friends!)



Now before it's realized that I am not inviting anyone to a beer nor an orgy at our yoga studio, and all interest is lost, let me talk about drugs for a bit.


At present, no one is trying to entice more students to their yoga studios with drugs; well not exactly. However,...


Part II

I have seen some psychedelic experiences (aka hallucinogens) touted to yoga students; though usually not at the studio but at some campfire or something the teacher may invite everyone to. But again, don't get me wrong, there can be a time and place for almost anything. For example, I think things like ayahuasca and "toad medicine" can be powerful tools for healing for the right people, but, for some, the tea or the toad can be a nightmarish experience. The effect can come on within seconds, and it's easy for a squeamish person or a novice user to become panicked.


I also know of people who, after having escaped the clutches of alcohol and drug addiction, fall back into it after trying ayahuasca and similar psychedelics. You see, because such magical potions are put into a yogic or spiritual context (which is not to say they can’t be), it gives many people a way to, seemingly, legitimize an avenue back into old behaviors that they probably spent many years trying to free themselves from. In other words, a well discerned plan for an individual to use such things is one thing, but a “Hey guys, let’s go to this trippy ceremony, it’ll be fun!” approach is, well, a mistake one may regret for many years to come. But this is not just because it is dangerous in immediacy, but also because it can be a back door to old harmful behaviors.


For example, someone once approached me about having an ayahuasca ceremony at CYS, but I knew this person had struggled with heavy drug use for many years before getting clean; and my intuition was telling me ayahuasca was going to be his way back in. There was a time when his yoga practice was his greatest passion, but at this time it was clear that he was truly more interested in the ayahuasca trip than what should've been his greater yoga journey of development without it. As we often say at CYS "What's in the way IS the way!" Unfortunately, too often, folks get weak near the finish line, as the finish line means a final goodbye to an old friend; which is rarely easy, even when that old friend is toxic.


The Yoga of the Yamas

You see, for the vast majority of people, it is the Yoga of the Yamas (Restraints) that needs to be developed most. And even though yoga often speaks about liberation, it doesn't revere it as often as Americans celebrate liberty. For liberty is won by demonstrating one has some capacity of restraint. For example, you can give a teen a plate of cookies if you know they will eat their veggies first and they will only eat 1 or 2 thereafter. But we don't do this with a 5 year old because all those cookies will be gone quickly and the veggies will be on the floor. Likewise, you should be at liberty to drive a car or own a gun, but only after you have both reached a certain age and / or demonstrated proper control over your mind and emotions. In fact, in Patanjali's Yoga Sutras, he places the cultivation of restraints (yamas) as the very first limb of astanga yoga (which we will discuss more later). For the world is full of entrapment's and, if we do not recognize this, as well as cultivate some ability to restrain ourselves when enticed, then we (and those around us) are in for a rough journey where the lessons in life come hard. However, if some restraint can be developed, then one can also lean into their confidence that they have the ability to not give -in so easily to the whims of their ego and senses; and they have a personal history of knowing that they are not really missing anything if they don’t give in; for, in the long run, one can reach a much more rewarding life if they have not been falling into pitfalls of their own making for years and decades prior. Furthermore, one has the discipline to delve into more powerful medicines and practices; even risky practices like smoking toad or dark tantra). But even more important, they have the ability to discern what is truly a yogic practice and what is just a psychological work-around to justify returning to one’s vices. For, again, if one has not developed some level of restraint, they will never know the type of freedom that is of true value. Instead, they become slaves to the whims of their ego, senses and emotions; and never find their way to a true yogic path.



Now before it's realized that I am not inviting anyone to a beer nor an orgy nor any sacred hallucinogens at our yoga studio, and all interest is lost, let me talk about the greater point that, not I, but Krishna is trying to make.


Lose discernment, miss life's only purpose!

~Krishna, Bhagavad-Gita (aka The Bible of Yoga)



Part III (This part still needs editing. Sorry, if it is unclear)

How to know if its yoga

In a sense, Yoga is all about alignment. And although the postures were not considered to actually be a part of yoga until only the last 150 years, nevertheless, even the postures are all about finding the alignment that is conducive to channel healing and transformative energies. Think of it this way, even if you can force-fit a puzzle piece into a spot where it doesn't align, the picture is still going to be messed up. Similarly, if we look at the literal meaning of the Sanskrit word, yoga, it literally means to yoke, but yoking cannot happen unless certain factors align. Sometimes they can easily align, sometimes it can be tricky, sometimes it can be very tricky and do more harm than good; even though it may seem like it is outwardly. For example, one reason yogis advise being vegetarian is because fruits and veggies are much simpler than animals, they easily integrate into our system. But meat, especially if it has been tortured, is very complex on so many levels that, even though our stomach may be able to grind it up and use it for energy, our more subtle bodies have great difficulty processing and integrating, not just the highly complex proteins of meat, but also filtering out an animals fears related to captivity, and myriad other psychological toxins animals take on by typical modern farm practices (as well as the more humane approaches to farming). In other words, the meat might align with the human belly, but is not aligning with the holistic human being. Notwithstanding, some things absolutely should be combined, even when you think they shouldn't. For example, I'd think hydrogen and oxygen is a really bad idea. I mean if oxygen feeds fire and hydrogen is an explosive, then, well, it's actually true. In the wrong measure and without a thoughtful process, it can be dangerous. But in the right measure, water is just hydrogen that has reacted with oxygen to be in a more stable state. In other words, it brings the water of life. Its not only awesome and creates fun water parks, but you can't even live without it. Similarly, just putting two independent cultures together in the same room (or petri dish) is not likely to result in the magical realization and spiritual experience of interdependence. And it is as important that we work on human unity, as a planet, as it is that we work towards solving the water issues that are increasingly beginning to threaten all life on the planet. But again, just getting everyone together in the same place, and making them behave, is not the same as actual Peace. Peace is not simply an end to war, just as meat is not just an end to hunger. There is a much greater yoga to be attained! But it also takes great care, study and work. In other words, it is the ultimate yoga practice! It is a practice that takes great discernment and sometimes even great restraint; which again, we have little practice in. For, as it stands, interdependence is a distant notion (esp here in Merica) and so people just go shooting off at the mouth wtf they want, and if it doesn't get the results they want, some even feel its okay to yield a gun to shoot off with, as well. In other words, the hydrogen and oxygen here in merica is not creating that wonderful H2O that connects, brings peace, healing and yokes us all together. Instead, we've got super hot Promethium (that hot mixture of gasses aka Fire)... and he's getting way out of hand!


Similarly, in asana classes, it is great if one can pull their leg up behind their head if they are ready for it, if they have trained discerningly. But if they have not also trained in disciplines and restraints, such as patience, self-reflection, or even a dab of humility (keeping their ego in-check), then yoking one's leg behind their head is not a yogic journey of accomplishment, but a journey to the hospital. But this isn't just for asana, this is any number of life's challenges.


Asana practice provides wonderful metaphors for the greater yoga practice, which is all of life. It is trying to find the proper alignment of the body to open the meridians so that the life-force-energy (prana) can flow throughout our being; and even to others. But, if instead, it leads to injury or other unhealthy behaviors, then you can be sure the energy will be blocked and the life force will not be able to flow through your life cultivating harmony, and disharmony may then ensue upon yourself, and may also infect others.


Virtues vs Values

Yoga, like the virtues, is meant to be Universal. You may have even heard that the yoga trainings I hold are in Vishwa Yoga, as Vishwa means Universe. Furthermore, Vishvaasa means Faith, which implies trusting in that Universal Unitiing Infinite Intelligence (i like to call UUII / Uuu-Weee:) that connects us all, to hold the well being of all in It's Infinite Mind. And, as we should follow its example if we desire to align with the Great Uuuu-Weee, we should have more than just our own well-being in mind, but the well-being of all. You know, love thy neighbor, shelter the stranger, do unto others... Realizing at the experiential level that we all connect and are, therefore interdependent uon one another to, not just freakin' behave, or be civil to one another, but consider the other as an extension of ones very own self; and vice versa.


Values are not universal. they are group or individually specific. For example, a gang may think it is practicing the virtue of loyalty. but if loyalty to the gangs means beating up an old lady, then that is not a virtue. It may be of value to the gang, but it is not the type of loyalty that makes it a virtue. However, if you have loyalty to the good of the entire human race, then you have the virtue of loyalty. And, it connects with all other virtues. For if you want the good of the human race then you must want the good of the environment, as well, and vice versa. Thus, it is not virtuous to not give a damn about the environment but then claim to wish for the good of the human race. Hence, whenever we see great compassion for the environment you are also much more likely to notice that there is also great compassion for all creatures. Albeit, some environmentalist get angry with humans who destroy the environment, but their goal is to help them see it is for the greater good, including the good of the one who is sawing the tree limb out from under their own selves. In other words, to save the whole is Integrity (the culmination of all virtues), but to safeguard only ones own interests is a practice in values, it divides the virtues, and therefore, eventually, proves to lack integrity and falls apart. For, as several good Books say, he who would (seek to) save (only) his own soul, shall surely lose it.


Hence, beer is a value, not a virtue. Yes, it may be great for Bubba and his buddies, but if you follow the interconnected path you will find, somewhere not far down the road, someone that is benefiting from Bubba's buddies about as much as the little old lady that got beat up by those loyal gang members. I know, I know, it's a hard truth to swallow; especially when it tastes so good! But, if you think like a Buddhist, for just a minute, you will realize that this is no different than the harm we do to the planet and, therefore, the integrity of the whole human race every time we drive our car, or use pesticidal products, or plastic bags, or on and on... The difference, however, is of time and degree. With alcohol and guns (which are often sold in the same place) you could even say it is too late; as way too many atrocities have happened for the lack of restraints and integrity. But also, so long as it is still happening, it is never too late, but, indeed very, very, very, urgent!


Environmental issues are going to get us soon as well. We know this because they already are; when we consider others in the world already suffering from environmental catastrophes, as extensions of ourselves, we should already be very, very concerned with their pain, as if it is our very own, because it is. In terms of immediacy and degree, there is an illusion of difference. But this veil will eventually be removed, so if we don't start recognizing humanity and the environment's interdependence somewhat soon, well, i just hope it doesn't end like that final scene in Raiders of the Lost Ark when that covenant is split open!


In other words, the sooner we are able to discern beer yoga from real yoga, the greater chance we have to awaken to so many other things that are leading to our degradation, so that we may then be able to clearly strive towards, not just salvation, but our utmost human potentials.

…man should know his own self

and recognize that which leadeth unto loftiness or lowliness,

glory or abasement, wealth or poverty.

~Baha'u'llah



If you like participating in the multi-billion dollar beer industry, sexually indulging in the limitless way to sexually indulge, to seek out the next great drug high, or sugar high, cup cakes, soda, potato chips, gas guzzling vehicles, fur coats, diamonds mined by modern day slaves, to vacation in Dubai that is still -to this very day- being built by modern day slaves kept against their will, the 35 to 65 minks to produce a mink coat, that the avg whale has nearly 80 plastic bags in its stomach, etc. etc, then great! You are just like me! Because insane minds think alike!

hav I am fighting with all taht stuff stuff too. And it is really awesome, because it gives us so much endless yoga to practice!


BBBUUTTT (and thats a giant, multifaceted BUT, not big enough to fit on this screen and with a giant kaleidoscopic hole you must avoid falling into lest ye get lost in an inescapable darkness) you must discern your way to clarity that it is not by indulging in such things, but it is in your practices to overcome them that it is yoga.


Keep your mind quiet, steady and firm. Do not submit to desires, but try to control them. One who cannot restrain his tongue* cannot restrain his mind; one who cannot restrain his mind, cannot restrain his action, one who cannot restrain his actions cannot restrain himself, once who cannot restrain himself; and one who cannot restrain himself cannot attain his real Infinitie Self. ~ Meher Baba


[Wow! i can't believe i left that one out. but if i may add. If one cannot restrain his liquor he probably cannot restrain his tongue. ]


However, to overcome, control or restrain does not always mean to stop something altogether. Like sex, I don't plan to give that up; but i dont plan to attend to ratchet my game up to swingers parties, either. But before i go further, don't take that as an excuse to go ahead and put a little bit of something really bad on your plate from time to time. Like dropping acid or vacationing in Dubai, it just perpetuates more evil. However, as for those "ah well, everybody does it" things that are not so bad, and hey, one more time ain't gonna hurt ya. Well, Swami Sivananda wrote a great poem (can't remember the name) that repeated the line "just one more" over and over again, to describe how easy it is to fall off the wagon over and over again, by having "just one more."


Sri Aurobindo famously said,

All of life is yoga.


It's a great statement and, i believe, profoundly true. But, not simply true. It's complicatedly true. It's one of those statements that maybe should have been hermetically sealed away from the general public, likemany teachings of yoga and mysticism used to be. For some people get a hold of such statements and take them out of their proper context, which sometimes water them down and sometimes give them a far more supernatual meaning than intended. For example, sometimes when I talk about alcohol in my yoga trainings, someone will say something like, all is good, weed is good, alcohol is good, meat is good. And then I concur that in certain balanced contexts all of these things may be good in some medicinal way. But this is never how they really use it. It is much like how the Bible is very clear that one should not drink for intoxication, but they focus on the part about the drinking being okay, rather than the intoxication being not okay. (And, btw, the water had to be fermented in the time of Jesus as it was too polluted to drink without getting ill). I also had i an invitation to a Wine and Yoga class, in which the teacher not only basically admitted that it was hard for her to give up and by the way, she also felt no need in doing so (although it clearly looked there was a problem she was confessing) because she quoted Rumi in a poem wherein he said he could not give up the wine. But if you really know anything about Rumi, you'd know he was a very devout Muslim (as Sufism is just mystic branch of Islam) and the Koran forbids drinking. However, the Koran, like many scriptures, sometimes use wine as a metaphor for the spirit, but any Muslim scholar will tell you that Rumi did not actually drink alcohol. "The mystical spiritual ideas that he was writing about couldn't perhaps be articulated literally. So there are a lot of references to wine and drinking in Rumi's poetry meant as a stand-ins for spiritual enlightenment or ecstasy." (Source)


But such arguments are endless. For it is very difficult to change the view when someone really likes something. For when we really like something, we tend to identify with it, and we even invest our identity into something, it is very hard to hear that it could be leading to more harm than good. Its like if someone insults the music you love. It feels like they have insulted you! And the same goes if they make fun of your music or whatever it is you love. , too. As many comedians have noted, everyone is okay with laughing at everyone, until they are laughing at you! Now, in yogic theory, this is referred to as false identification, and it is a great impediment to seeing hte light. Nevertheless, it hurts when it happens to us and, when it hurts, we naturally want to rebel against it; whether a good argument has been made or not. And often it is not, often someone else is just not caring to restrain an unhelpful jab at you; as it gives them a momentary hit of (dopamine) pleasure (only to bite them back later, but thats' another article).


It reminds me of how often i will hear someone constantly calling out and criticizing so many things they perceive to be evils in the world UNTIL we come upon some things they like, things they have invested themselves in (such as alcohol) and perhaps most of their relationships around. So sometimes I add, Yes, alcohol is not bad (nor good), it is the drinking of it (duh) that contributes directly or indirectly to liver damage, heart disease, brain shrinkage, diabetes, abusive families, parents, relationships, date rape, car crashes (1 death every 53min in the US alone), sorority deaths... you know the list could go on and on and on; and you could add personal stuff, like my friend who lost his great engineering job, then his wife, then his kids would no longer talk to him, then he had his stomach removed (yeah i didnt know that was possible either), homelessness, and several attempts at suicide. Or the car crash I witnessed where the lady and her infant where killed as 2 drunk men ran plowed into them and then ran from the scene. Or all the clients i have that tell me of all the abuse they are still dealing with due to an alcoholic parent, and on and on and on. And there will still be people reading this who say, "But, but, but..." just as there will always be people who say there is nothing wrong with AK 47 machine guns that can shoot up to 600 rounds per minute in the hands of whoever wants their chance at shooting 600 deer at a time. But, luckily, we have now tipped the scales to over 55% of the merican population (including reptillicans) finally saying they want to see a little bit of restraint over gun sales. Its a fact that when gun law reinforcement were gutted that these shootings we hear of now about once a week began to escalate It is also a fact that when we society put some restrictions on drinking while or before driving that fatal accidents went down dramatically, as well. Unfortunately, however, when we feel a restraint has been put upon us, that we would not put upon ourselves, we want to rebel against it. It's okay if it is on others, but don't tread on me. And, ideally, we would put some restraints upon ourselves. But, again, it is very difficult to do when living in a society that is always depending on you to indulge in whatever you want. In fact, capitalism depends upon it. in a world.


I have heard often in India, that when Jesus said "My yoke is easy" he was saying His Yoga is easy. For, in this context, a yoke is Y shaped device put upon 2 wild beasts of burden so that the Divine (principles or virtuesw) can guide them. In other words, without any ability to restrain oneself it is very hard for the Divine to guide you. For it takes self control to activate our virtues and act upon them.


Its very easy to get caught up in buying and/or participating in alcohol, gun shows, tobacco, lottery tickets, porn, also gasoline, tortured to death animals (meat), drugs from crooked big pharma that peddle to vulnerable populations that often make diseases more complicated and incurable, etc, etc. We all partake in these or similar things; and much of it we don't even care to try to restrain ourselves from doing.


Yet, when we take a moment to put such things on the scales (to discern), we know when the horrors of such activities far outweigh the benefits. But, for yogis, it should also beg the question (if all of life is yoga...) How is this yoga?


Surely, we need to look at Sri Aurobindo's statement with a little more depth. However, it is not much of a stretch to understand that there is more yogic skill cultivated involved in abstaining from our vices, than there is to indulge in them. The whole world is also a place of yin and yang, of opposites, and it is working with these opposites that we cultivate our virtues; which Krishna says is yoga itself 'and leads to nirvana,' but we will get to that later. For now, just consider that, virtue (which leads to yoga, to nirvana) cannot exist without vice. For example, what kind of courage does one have if they have never confronted a dangerously unjust situation? What is one's patience if they have never worked with children or challenging people? What is your commitment to truthfulness if you have never had to face any consequences for being out of integrity?


In Patanjali's yoga sutras he speaks of the 8 limbs of (Astanga) yoga. The first 2 limbs (yama and niyama) are basically the virtues; but all the other steps lead back to the virtues, as well. Like a garland, all the petals (virtues) are connected. However, the first step, yama, means restraint. And it its also the yogic step that most people fight against; not knowing that it is thru restraint that so many other virtues are cultivated. Now Patanjali gives 5 specific things to restrain from, but upon a closer look we again find they are all interconnected, like the virtues. For the yamas really tie into the whole world, into all of life, which brings us back to the statement of Aurobindo, but with a new insight. Yes, all of life is yoga ~ but this is in potential! It is not automatic! In other words, we can use everything in life to develop, yogically. But it is not enough just to say "ALL is good!", and then be off the hook for any kind of self discipline; all because we thought we understood some deep philosophy that said 'everything is yoga' and, therefore, we can really do whatever we want and still assume we are cultivating the virtues / growing yogically / spiritually.


(It reminds me of a certain politician who said, because he is a star, he can do whatever he wants to women. Now, his reason is because he is a star, but some very misguided Christians think, because he claims to be Christian, he is more qualified to do lead the world than, say, anyone who has shown any ability to actually restrain themselves from such abhorrent behaviors.)


Perhaps you have heard of the famous Swami Vivekananda. There is no one in India who hasn’t heard of his legendary character, and many throughout the world know of him, as well. However, I don’t know how many folks have the habit I do of wanting to know the origin of words and the meanings behind names. So, having a little study in Sanskrit, it dawned on me that Vivek means discernment; and ananda means bliss. Furthermore, it is implied that one who lives in a state of yoga, is living in a state of ananda / bliss. However, it is not quite that simple. As implied in the Swami’s name, bliss is not simply lived in automatically, but discerned. In other words, his name means one who discerns bliss. In other words, again, it is not automatic. One must choose and act accordingly to live all of life in the light, as yoga. And at any given moment in life you have such chances to go deeper. Right now, you can choose that chocolate cake and tortured cow milk, that you know is going to lead to a stomach ache, until you practice yogic farting to relieve yourself back into alignment; but still won’t be a single step away from from the onslaught of diabetes. Or you can align yourself with healthy, real foods (rather than a conglomeration of adulterated ingredients) that have been proven to cure diabetes, but, not only that, make you feel vibrantly alive! As Ocean Robbins explains in a great Ted Talk, 'Just take a moment to ask yourself "What do I want now?” -and weigh it against- “What do I want most?” This can lead to taking powerful steps towards a more yogic alignment with the powers of life-force-energy, rather than living out of line with these powers.


In Ocean’s talk, he also speaks of his father, Irv Robbins, of the Baskin & Robbins ice cream empire, who forsook his father's footsteps and gave up the keys to the empire to pursue healthy living. But Ocean nor his father deny that ice cream, donuts and such are unquestionably, delicious. Instead, they call us to a deeper yoga (though not using the term yoga). Ocean says to ask yourself, 'What do I really want out of this life? What is most important?' Implying, to keep eating ice cream (donuts, beer, tortured animal products, etc) OR to live a long, healthy vibrant (yogic) life; and experience the positive side of the saying:


The healthy person has a million wishes. The sick has only one.


Then he goes on to explain how his grandfather, who was riddled with many illnesses by his 50s, and almost needed some body parts amputated by his 60s due to diabetes, reluctantly realized he would rather give up sugar than go on living the life he had only known for too long. And thereafter, he healed and went on to live a healthy 18 more years; but imagine if he had discerned the yogic ways of bliss much sooner. (-I bet he imagined it often!)


Summary

Yoga is the path of virtue, not vice. True, vices will be there, and need to be there for us to practice the yoga. But do not confuse the vices to be the yoga itself. Instead, practice the yoga of discernment; which also goes hand in hand with the yoga of restraint. For it is hard to discern when you have cultivated no powers of restraint; especially when confronted with such vices that you, perhaps passionately, love! ~Therein, however, you can kick in your other yogic practices, such as breath control. Wherein, it is said in many sacred yogic texts, "Mind is the master of the emotions and breath is the master of the mind." Therein, one can use their yogic practices for the next level yogic skill for which it was meant to be used, the skill of restraint.


Yes, we all stray from the path, it’s completely natural. In fact, that we are nearly constantly craving something, makes it seem like it must be right to crave it, and tehrefore right to satisfy it?! And so, just because I buy (invest) into an industry that (for example) aggressively influences people to drink more, does not mean that i am responsible for that other person that killed a mother and infant in a car crash. I mean, the world is just connected as One on the surface, i mean, it is just a cliche, right? My actions don’t really have any connection with the actions of others, right? ...said almost everyone at some point(s) in life when faced with their favorite cravings. ~Hey, didn't I just see you in a yoga workshop last week talking about how everything is literally connected, how we are all one? Funny how quick our philosophy changes when confronted with addictions that we have passionately invested in.


Yes, we all stray from the path, it’s completely natural. But it does us, and the world, no good to fool ourselves into believing something is yoga when it strays more from the path than it sticks upon it. Don’t get me wrong. I don’t mean to be preachy here. I won’t go as far as my Indian teachers, such as “MasterJi” Vishwanath, who has gotten word of what he refers to as “this disgusting beer yoga” trend that he has heard about in America. But if cultural appropriation is a real thing, then what the west has done to yoga (and tantra) is off the cultural appropriation charts!


Yes, we all stray from the path, it’s completely natural. So don’t get me wrong. Heck, you might just find me at the bar one day. It wouldn't be the first time, and I might not even stop you from buying us a round. But the next day I am going to be having a kale smoothie, while asking myself what was the obstacle I didnt go thru, [For "whats in the way, is the way!] and how did I get myself round to drinking, why did I do that to my brain, body, spirit and liver, what crazy things did i say or unyogic examples did i make that i cannot take back. And, just by doing that act of self-reflecting discernment, I am back upon the yogic path again, trying to realign myself with yoga. And I will fall off again in myriad other ways. But, what I hope you will never find, is not so much that I am in some kind of sex, drugs, money pyramiding, etc scandal, but that I would try to play it off as if it was some kind of new yoga.


Yes, we all stray from the path, it’s completely natural. But don’t get the two directions mixed up. Discern which way is towards yoga, which way is away from yoga; and which clever way is trying to mix them up for you; or you will just end up going in the circles of making progress and then losing what you have gained. Actually, you can call these spirals, and therefore, you are learning, nevertheless. But to put Ocean Robbins question another way, ask yourself, "Do you want to spiral thru life, having to relearn things multiple times before making a little progress? Or do you want to make the most of your life, seeing what is possible by improving your yoga practice on a daily basis; by spending more time aligning with the path rather than coming up with clever ways to avoid it, so you can stay stuck where you are. If the former, if you don't confuse the two, when you keep your yoga practice purely that which strives to develop your virtues while starving (restraining) your vices, then your virtues will grow strong and your vices will grow weak.


Again, some will still say, ‘Well, you need the vice to recognize the virtue,' as even I have said in this essay. But don’t worry, the vice will take care of itself. No need to look for it or seek it out; and for gawd's sake, don't think you need to indulge in it in order to make it go away (perhaps the dumbest...sorry, i mean, non-discerning theory that everyone hopes will work, but forever keeps failing to ever work at all). The devil is always there to throw you off. No need to ask the devil to help you come closer to God. As all the prophets and gurus have said, like Krishna, "Keep your mind fixed upon Me (God) and you will surely come to Me." Some, such as swami Prabhupada, have said this in itself is the true meaning of that ultimate yogic state known as Samadhi; which many think means to stop your mind; and which might be wonderful {esp if you are always tortured by non-virtuous thoughts and actions. But i wonder if you would try to stop your thoughts if you could direct and focus them, rather than stop them, and keep them wholesome, harmonic, on the yogic path, gaining momentum. Then maybe so many people wouldn't be so desperate to be able to turn their minds off. Either way...} if i may paraphrase, Prabhupada says that the yogi is one who gets so focused on Krishna (God, the Divine, Source UUII) that s/he no longer has any propensities to let the mind stray anywhere else. And consequently, all of one’s actions want to align with the Will of the Divine. ~ This is samadhi, at least in his view, but it seems to jive with the wisdom of many others as well (even Krishna, as you will see in the quote below).


Samadhi is a lesser known yogic term, but it’s right up there with that most known yogic term (and most known grunge band) Nirvana. Meaning, near (nir) heaven (vana), it’s that most salubrious nectar that all full blown yogis seek to attain. I don’t know if Prabhupada has ever explained Nirvana as well as he has Samadhi, but we have his favorite Expounder to do it Himself. Krishna, in the Bhagavad Gita, explains it as such.


Fearlessness, purity of heart, perseverance in the yoga of knowledge, charity, sense restraint, sacrifice, study of the scriptures, austerity, honesty, nonviolence, truthfulness, absence of anger, renunciation, equanimity, abstaining from malicious talk, compassion for all creatures, freedom from greed, gentleness, modesty, absence of fickleness,; splendor, forgiveness, tortitude, cleanliness, absence of malice, and absence of pride; these are the qualities of those endowed with the divine virtues, O Arjuna…

Divine qualities lead to Nirvana.

~Krishna, Bhagavad Gita, Ch.16


Hence, it is the cultivation of divine qualities (the virtues) that lead to nirvana, not giving in to our vices. Yes, we all stray from the path, it’s completely natural. But don’t mix or confuse the path that leads to yoga (virtue) with the endless paths of vice that stray away from yoga.


Om Asato Maa Sad-Gamaya

Tamaso Maa Jyotir-Gamaya

Mrtyor-Maa Amrtam Gamaya

Om Shaantih Shaantih Shaantih

~

Om, (O Lord) Keep me not in (the Phenomenal World of) Unreality,

but make me go towards the Reality (of Eternal Self),

Keep me not in (the Ignorant State of) Darkness, but make me go towards the Light (of Spiritual Knowledge),

Keep me not in (the World of) Mortality, but make me go towards the World of Immortality (of Self-Realization),

Om, Peace, Peace, Peace.




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