“Ahinsa”, the Dark Night of the Soul and Lalalime Yoga Pants ..
There has been a recent trend for yoga neophytes to casually drop into conversation, words such as “ahimsa” and “satya”, at the drop of a hat, often as a token of claiming some sense of authenticity or credibility …. and its usually followed by an assault on the traditional practice of Yoga as preserved by Hindu lineages … I felt called to respond ….
“You mention Satya and Ahimsa as important for you, as do many; I would add the other Yamas and Niyamas also, especially emphasising Asteya, which Wikipedia tells us is “
.. the Sanskrit term for “non-stealing”. It is a virtue in Hinduism.The practice of asteya demands that one must not steal, nor have the intent to steal another’s property through action, speech and thoughts.”
Many interpret these FIRST of all Yoga steps, as pink and fluffy, optional terms, but trying to become established in even one of them is a lifetime objective, is a spiritual practice, a rigourous saadhana. Far from being lightweight and optional, they are fire and thunder and lightning in their capacity to purify, but equally deep in their subtlety and capacity to uproot every cell of ones being.
“By firmly grasping the flower of a single virtue, a person can lift the entire garland of yama and niyama.” Swami Kripalu
You use the word Ahimsa, as do many, but few realise that Ahimsa is a state, the state of the absence of violence, rather than a policy or behaviour pattern, or manner of acting. Furthermore it is a state which frequently requires reinstating when disturbed and in order to do so, all actions are prescribed. When partial, incomplete or innocently misunderstood, or mischievously manipulated interpretations of the immutable Vidya of YogaAbhyasa are presented, an act of Himsa occurs (these being acts of intellectual and or emotional violence), presenting a corrective contribution is therefore also an act of Satya, and indeed of restoring Ahimsa, an act of Dharma ie harmony.
If evolutionary methodologies other than YogaAbhyaasa exist, other bodies of literature or spiritual traditions which also dissolve the sense of separation, of course one should pursue them and give the preceptors, luminaries and visionaries full adoration and credit as the articulators of such valuable wisdom. Indeed St John of the Cross (as he is now known having been appropriated) and the Dark Night of the Soul are evidence of spiritual wisdom of a very high level, outside of the Hindu Yoga traditions.
But why isn’t everyone opening “Dark Night” studios, and why don’t LalaLime produce Teresa pants etc? One reason is that there is no other tried and tested accessible tradition, a tradition which can boast 10,000’s of enlightened people over 5,000 years and over 3 million scriptures, except the Hindu tradition. Another equally important reason is because the Christian icons are deemed sacred whereas the Yoga traditions were denigrated and vilified by two waves of barbaric colonialists, the Yoga Acharyas (custodians of Indias ancient healing and spiritual traditions) killed, beheaded sawn in half, by religious zealots fearful of the consequences of their false religious fiefdoms being revealed as deeply flawed if not downright fraudulent.
To this day there is a subliminal, subconscious streak which feels that its okay to take whatever one wishes from Indic knowledge systems and traditions, without any consequence, almost as a “colonialist privilege”. Even today, perhaps moreso today, any under-informed but overly-opinionated “occidental” yoga teacher, brandishing the ligitimacy granted by a 500 hour “TT qualification”, resting upon the colonialists right to deconstruct “savages’ traditions” feels able to pontificate upon the nuances of “Aparigraha” … non covetousness. The capacity to preach “aparigraha” whilst standing proudly upon the pedestal of cultural appropriation (check out Holy Christian Yoga) is possible only of those whose forebears mastered the fine art of “speaking with forked tongues” and who created an intellectual environment so permeated with privileged theft, that their descendants, fully immersed in these words and assumptions, yet continue the family tradition, without even being aware of the transgressions they smilingly commit.
There is ample evidence of the huge disparity between the treatment meted out to the traditions of the Colonies, no matter how beneficial and wise, and that of the Christain traditions, now matter how barbaric and irrational. Wholly unholy and unworthy praise is lavished on abrahamic traditions and icons whilst openly exhibiting a complete lack of genuine respect never mind reverence, for the Hindu bodies of knowledge and the sacrifices endured by the traditions and paramparas in order to preserve perfected systems, intact.
This subliminal streak IS colonialist, is appropriative and is exploitative. Acknowledging the source wholeheartedly and with humility as Hindus do, would be “base camp” and we haven’t got there yet. As for reverence and the desire to preserve intact and untainted by personal mental excretions, the urge to be able to pass on to future generations without the pollution of personal, klesha infused half baked ‘improvements” (usually trademarked), well we’re just at the beginning.
It’s a fundamental part of the established Hindu yoga orders that after serving 12 years at the feet of ones Guru, one then practiced in secret in order to prevent both dilution and dissipation of shakti and this is such valuable wisdom. The journey to Yoga is not a group activity, John did not hold Dark Night seminars at the local YMCA … it might be of personal benefit to yoga students to reflect upon their choices and their goals frequently.
Contrary to “middle class socialist lore”, YogaAbhyasa is not for everyone, Asanas can improve health but a healthy glowing body, squeezed into the latest narcissistic pants, is just as much an impediment to attaining the state of Yoga as being a lying, stealing colonialist, is. Apart from which, there are very valid reasons why in genuine traditions, Yoga practice is often prefaced with the caveat that it is Gaumukh Viyagraha, the “cowfaced tiger”, a reference to the understanding that what appears placid and cuddly like a cow, in this case conceals the same capacity to harm as does a tiger. YogaAbhyasa is not for everyone.
It might also actually be helpful to finally stop dissecting “what Hindus do and what Hindus are”, its been a favourite modus operandi of colonialists and their sepoys for the best part of a millennium and eventually everyone tires of being picked at by cultural vultures, especially when one is still alive, even reincarnationists with eternity at their disposal.
PS and by Hindus, I do mean civilisational Hindus, not just lightly melanated ones, 🤗🙏🤣@thebritishhindu Satish K Sharma.