Live free yoga

Liberated living through the sadhana of yog; enlivened by the grace of my satguru Yogiraj Siddhanath.


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The Game of Acing -why we play

This is a quick blog conceptualised and written at speed on a question that comes up time and again. It came up for discussion during one of my class and then took on a life of its own, as most things do with me. So here are my thoughts on it, anyone can as usual, form their own opinion about it.

The question started with why one should meditate and what makes them continue. I add these others as subsidiary concerns, what is the best technique, which teacher or Guru we should go to, how expensive are the courses and how long should we practice to become good at it, how flexible should I be for practicing etc etc etc.

Now I am going to replace some words in the above para and see what we get. Why should I play a sport, what is the best sport, which coach should I go to, how much investment is required for the equipment, how arduous is the practice, what level of physical fitness am I looking at etc etc etc.

Alternately, let us apply this to any other activity we want to indulge in, singing, dancing, cooking, playing an instrument…. Yes, that’s right you get the gist.

In all these activities is needed the same ingredients, training, commitment and a desire to learn, and this applies to meditation as well. Being meditation does not make it different, at least that’s my understanding from the experience of sharing a practice since over 21 years with various levels of practitioners, complete novice to adepts.

Modern usage has made meditation a mystical and esoteric field, almost as if one has to be esoteric and mystical to practice or teach it! Far from it, according to me.

“Practice the necessary means to achieve the necessary end,” I have heard my satguru Yogiraj Siddhanath repeat many a times. This practical approach is what endeared me to his teachings.

Having set that as a perimeter let us begin, feel free to replace the word meditation with any activity of your choice and vice versa.

The Choosing of the Game

The following modes are some of the ways in which, according to me, we are led to a practice, be it spiritual, a form of sport, an art or leisure activity.

Let us begin with a hereditary inclination, the sport is already in the DNA, you are a child prodigy. All you have to do is get a bit of training and the genes take over. Even you don’t know why you are so good at this activity. You sit and you melt into meditation, no effort, you are five years old; you play an instrument or sing like you have trained for years but you are only 10. You drive a ball, in tennis or golf or cricket and the body moves in tune, you are a pro and you have just started. People around you who have been training for years look at you with awe. In yogic terms we would call such souls past life practitioners, taking off from where they left off.

Then there is the family you are born into, your elders are musicians, you are trained from birth. Just by being around grown ups who ride, play polo or chess or tennis, billiards, carrom. The Bhagavad Geeta, sanskrit mantra chanting and their meaning, the Vedas and the Upanishads are part of a daily discussion; you learn all the various traditional rituals, what flowers to use for which deity, which of the Gods are angered by what, the chants for protection, for bringing luck in exams. Your education into meditation starts at birth, you may or may not take to it but the opportunity is there. You may love it or hate it, may move to another field or flow into the already prepared field.

Often parents want to live their life through their children or want them to do what they couldn’t do as kids, did not have the opportunity, nobody cared to teach them, whatever. Or they are pursuing a hobby and take you along. So here is a yoga teacher next door, a music academy, a paatu maami (music teachers, female) who comes home to teach. Sometimes you chafe at this but slowly you develop an interest and love for the teaching, the instrument or sport. Reluctance gives way to a fondness for it, you like sitting in silence, to watch your breath. While the same sport or practice may just leave others unaffected or unimpressed by the activity.


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Influenced by friends we take up an activity as means for being with like minded people, we join a club, learn to play cards or alternately go for a yoga class. Same reason we try a meditation session because a friend recommended it.

Sometimes it’s a passing fad, a fashion statement of the day, like everyone is playing golf or doing yoga so maybe it is the ‘in’ thing to do. Trying a fad you sometimes get hooked to a practice.

It could also be a recommendation from a doctor or psychologist for mental and physical health reasons, start meditating to relieve tension, start walking or some milder physical activity.

In all the above scenarios, whatever motivated you, the fundamental requirement to carry on with the chosen sport or activity, you have to have an inner curiosity and interest. Only then are you able to sustain the practice. That is the basic common denominator, to want to explore the possibilities of the practice after choosing it.

In a short simple statement, as I understand, one can meditate only by choosing to, whatever the path that has led one here, one has to make the choice. Just like in any other sport, you choose to play

Investing in Equipment.

One of the primary concerns of people looking at starting a practice is how much it is going to cost. You can buy simple and start, most meditation centres, yoga studios, sports clubs have standard essentials to start practice with.

Remember there is cheaper equipment and very expensive, it’s for you to choose. And you don’t have to buy everything all at one time! Not having an expensive yoga mat or bolster, a state of the art racquet, surfboard or ski, is not going to take away from the pleasure of the activity.

In meditation all you need is a mat, which can be a shawl, a cushion or a used blanket from home.

Continuity in Training.

To start all you may require is intention and a keen desire, but it is continued commitment that starts to improve proficiency. A desire to come back again and again for training.

When we say we meditate it’s a popular term but what we are actually doing is practicing the art of concentration that leads us into meditation. In the yogic practice Dharana comes before Dhyan.

Dharana is exactly like the training put in for learning or excelling at any sport or hobby. If you want to ride that bike, surfboard or ski, if you want to hit that ball, you have to keep training. If you want to sing or play the sitar or violin, you have to go through the stages of training. Ditto with meditation, Dharana is the training of the mind, bringing it again and again to a point of concentration to enable it to flow into Dhyan, since that is what you signed up for.

“To ease disease of random mind, a remedy suitable we must find,” says Yogiraj in his poem. “A rythmic breathing tension free.” To achieve that state tools are given that may involve a vision, a sound, a repetitive chant, a pattern of breathing. To move into meditation the training in Dharana has to be put in. Some days practice will go well and some days not so well, but if you are keen to learn you will not give up. If you try to get on a bicycle twice and fall and give up you will never learn to ride it. The effort to put into meditate is as simple as this.

Once the basic skill is learnt then you start to enjoy the process. You have got on that bike, you are standing on the surfboard and now you can enjoy the breeze on your hair, you can see the view around you, you are no more concentrating on the angle of your body or placement of your hand. It becomes second nature to you, you are not constantly struggling. The training starts to become pleasurable and at every opportunity, at every moment of leisure from your chores you want to get back to it, you dream about it. You have learnt to swim, you are no more thinking of the stroke to stay afloat, you put your mind only to perfect it.

In meditation too, as the technique of Dharana that you have chosen takes root, the mind from a turbulent and unruly state will deepen into a still pool. You will start to experience moments of peace and stillness while you continue to perfect your concentration.

As in all other training some people will be better at this before others, depending on the fitness of the body or the mind that you already had to begin the training with.

And the most wonderful factor is you can start enjoying it before perfecting it!

Choosing A Coach.

In the marketplace of today, choices abound with instructors and gurus promoting their expertise. No more trolling the vast Himalayan ranges looking for a guru, which of course you can do if thats what you want to. Though believe me many of them can be found on the internet today, having students from all over the globe to help put them on the world map. Once you have decided what you want to invest your interest, time and money in, take a tour. Look at the options available, most schools give some free classes, you can start with those. If you have already been inducted into a practice, treat it like any training be at it with the help and guidance of your instructor or guru.

It is important to form a rapport with the teacher to have confidence and a feeling of trust. Some teachers are harsh, some are kind, see which nature suits you. Some students do well under what to others may seem an unduly hard trainer, so be wise and choose the one who will help you excel. The teacher should be able to inculcate a love for the practice and see to your progress. In any case if you feel in any way consistently threatened you should look for alternate options. A disgruntled and dissatisfied mind is not a tool easy to use for training. Remember you as student are in charge of your continued attendance in that class.

If the coach is bad for you, change the coach not the sport!! It would be foolish to give up something that is giving you peace and happiness for a spat with a teacher or a disagreement on views.

I have tried to write this as a practical ready reckoner for seekers beginning a yog sadhana, without too many nuances. My more extensive blog on the Satguru, Gurus and Disciples you can read here.

Wishing you a wonderful journey of adventure on a path that has given me immense stillness and liberty.
Do feel free to write in any questions that may arise from it. I will be happy to answer them in my own style while hoping it helps in some way.


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Leave the mind/ego outside with the shoes?

-an antithetical viewpoint

Offering my respect to that irritating grain of sand that initiates the forming of the pearl I will dive right into a topic that has been bubbling on the surface of my mind for a while. Do remember my blogs are written as a bit of fun and light heartedly.

Establishing having an Ego

Being my nature to ponder on the spiritual and the so called spiritual, the intellectual and the so called intellectual, and finding it exciting to engage in this pursuit in my time away from my sadhana, it has become a rather enjoyable pastime of mine. In reality, some of these realisations are a result of the said sadhana when the lens turns and shines a light upon, among other subjects, popular sayings that belie a belief system. In fact you can call this my rubik’s cube, sudoku or crossword puzzle, so to speak. An engaging of the intellect to keep it sharp and not dulled or rather lulled into complacence. An Adi Shankaracharya inspired dialogue/debate occurring within myself; it is not uncommon for me, to find myself in conversation with my Self!

This habit, I realise now, had started very young when often I would find myself deeply (deeply yet humorously, for sure) pondering the vedantic philosophies discussed at home and the meaning of brahminical mantras constantly chanted by my elders. Stories from the Bhagavatam, the Mahabharat and Ramayan, the panchatantra would all be examined while being enjoyed. Adi Shankaracharya was a great favorite of my father and his quotes were applied to many and sundry situations internally and externally. This inculcated an atmosphere of debates and discussions, sometimes heated but always ending in a handshake, on which my father insisted.

“Where the mind is without fear,” wrote Tagore, “and the head is held high, where knowledge is free.” A poem that had impacted me deeply as a child. Even then I had known that though the poem was directed towards the country as a whole, it applied to each individual; for what else is a country made up of, if not its citizens. “Where the clear stream of reason has not lost it’s way into the dreary desert sands of dead habit,” continues Tagore. Into that heaven of freedom I would wish to be awakened as a young adolescent. Needless to say that did not bode well for any adult in my vicinity, be it teacher or parent who would ask me to follow obediently what was asked of me and what they deemed was the best for my development. Everything would have to pass this self study. That’s not to say I have not indulged in many spontaneous actions and learnt insightful lessons from all of them some pleasurable some not-so, all contributing to the formation of my ego as it were.

It would be correct to say, hence, that I had expended a sizable amount of my years in the attempt of developing intellectual skills which it would in later life not be wrong to call a well developed sense of the self, popularly labelled ego by philosophers and pundits. Said acquired skills also used to demolish without prejudice, perceptions that did not resonate with my own realisations. As usual, the views expressed here are mine alone, arrived at after much pondering in my free time and anyone who disagrees with them I accord a more than cordial shake of the hand.

A Not so Gentle Coaxing

New age yoga studios quickly follow a catchy phrase without due diligence.

First expressed in eastern philosophies, it is a common statement today used by priests, clergymen, gurus and pundits to ask the congregation to leave the ego outside with the shoes. This apparently to keep their flock humble and not fall a prey to pride. The idea mooted is that the ego is an obstacle on the path towards the Lord God.

This statement has always irked me and if asked to leave my mind or ego outside with my shoes while attending watering holes of any hue, it immediately makes me more attentive and a bit suspicious. It is meant to be a cute statement meaning don’t be argumentative but I find it an assault on a discerning mind.

The ego of the person inside trying to override the ego of the person entering! Not so Om Shanti after all!!

Ego, A Brief Summarisation

Simply stated, ego in Latin stands for I. Any person using this I word excessively is perceived as an egoist. For me, though this was too simplistic a definition of the ego. I craved for a more detailed understanding of ego as identity, as an understanding of the self and a tool for gathering knowledge and wisdom.

A throwback to college where being a student of philosophy, I had studied Immanuel Kant’s Critique of Pure Reason and his theory of a priori and a posteriori. Putting it simply and keeping it light, they are the two methodology of gathering knowledge by an individual mind and goes to form the substance of the ego. A priori the first based on deduction and reason is independent of experience and the second a posteriori is empirical and based on subjective experience. Most western philosophers give precedence to information and knowledge gathered through the former a priori as it’s, according to them, a more scientific approach, an objective study which determines that a particular formula when applied would in every instant bring the same result. The latter path of a posteriori is empirical and based on information gathered from subjective experience, a method which for obvious reasons, is very difficult to compute. The latter is usually debunked by those referred to popularly as ‘intellectuals’. But I have found both work in different ways to help the individual mind gather information.

In the Sanatan philosophy the sanskrit term used is Ahankar. Ahankar which does not just mean the ‘I’ but the ‘I maker’. The first sign of ego is developed by the infant at the moment of birth. My Satguru Yogiraj Siddhanath, explains how when the baby emerges from the womb of the mother the heresy of separateness occurs and the soul forgetting it is divine starts identifying with the body. The first I of identifying with the external form grows roots.

According to my understanding the identity of Aham or self strengthens as the baby grows by identifying with traits of its gender, family status and name. This sense of the self deepens further as the manas- the mind, and intellect- buddhi becomes more consolidated with social conditioning and upbringing and the very personal experiences in that souls journey. The I then refers to itself as the sum total of all 5 koshas, the panchakosha – the body of flesh, the body of breath, the body of mind and emotion, the body of intellect and the body of intuition. How this I collects information, knowledge and wisdom depends on how the I perceives the world through the 5 senses, panchendriyas. Further the substance of the I is textured by the play of the three gunas, the clarity or otherwise of the vivek buddhi.

भूमिरापोऽनलो वायु: खं मनो बुद्धिरेव च ।अहङ्कार इतीयं मे भिन्ना प्रकृतिरष्टधा ॥ ४ ॥

Interestingly Krishna in the Bhagavad Geeta has pointed out how the earth, water, fire, air, ether, mind, buddhi (intellect) and ahankar form the eight grosser manifestations of the energies of the descending Purusha– pure consciousness. All serious practitioners of yog sadhana know that the body consists of all these elements and together they form the grosser I. For clarification Purusha, in my understanding, has no ‘masculine’ connotation here. More on this in my next blog.

This is a vast topic by itself and my reason for touching upon it here is only to lightly stroke on the nuances of what is meant by an ego.

Case in favour of not leaving the ego out

Let me begin by saying that according to me, those who have an Ahankar, an ego will not be successful in leaving it behind. And those who can leave it behind need not enter at all, for after all they without Ahankar become -Nirankar- निरङ्कार्, without form, formless.

  1. योगश्चित्तवृत्तिनिरोधः

Patanjali in his treatise of YogSutras says yog (union) is calming the vagaries of the fluctuating mind. The mind, the ego is the sense of lower self, which is transformed to the realisation of the Universal Self. The calming of the fluctuations and turbulence of the mind is the basis of yog sadhana. If you have already achieved it you need not enter at all, if you haven’t, leaving it behind what will you transform? It is after all the ego that has to pass through the crucible of fire to purify itself into Atman, then Paramatman.

2. स्वाध्याय

One of the tenets of niyam is swadhyay, self study; turning the lens inward in order to observe and experience the transformation of the chitta and the manas all a part of what forms the ego. Having left the mind and ego self outside, what is there to study.

3. शरीरे संहारः कलानाम्

“The destroyer is within the body,” read the Shiva Sutra discovered by Vasugupta on a boulder in the territory of Rishi Kashyap around the 9th century CE. The movement of discovery is inwards and outwards. As the seeker takes the first step into the room the spirit within recognising that effort inwards is filled with joy and moves to embrace and reward this endeavour by a soul in returning to its parent source and the ego dropping all its beauty and ugliness regains its natural form of splendour.

4. Transformation

“Yog is an inner ascent, through ever-more refined and ever-more expanded spheres of consciousness to get to the Godessence which lies at the core of one’s own being,” says Himalayan Satguru Yogiraj Siddhanath.

As a practitioner of yog sadhana for this and many lives, I am palpably aware of the movement of my consciousness from grosser to more subtler aspects of my being. It’s a transformation from the grosser emotions and passion to the subtler love and light which is the purpose of the practice for many. The journey of the transformation itself is what gives joy. It is to learn this transformation that we enter any room and if asked to leave the ego outside it will defeat the purpose of the sadhana, we may as well just be mindlessly anywhere.

Finally, complete leaving of the Ego is when you realise you were never the Ego nor any of its manifestations. Adi Shankaracharya in his NirvanShatakam explains.

निर्वाणषटकम्

मनोबुद्ध्यहङ्कार चित्तानि नाहं, न च श्रोत्रजिह्वे न च घ्राणनेत्रे ।
न च व्योम भूमिर्न तेजो न वायुः, चिदानन्दरूपः शिवोऽहम् शिवोऽहम् ॥१॥

I am not the mind, intelligence, ego or conscience
Neither am I the sense of hearing, taste, smell or sight
I am not the sky, earth, fire or air
Eternal Bliss attribute of Shiva I am, Shiva I am

Earlier Krishna explained the descent of purusha– pure consciousness into ego and here Shankaracharya explains the ascent of ego into purusha– pure consciousness. Still a vestige of I aham evident in the last line and a degree of separation as the attribute rupa of eternal bliss, in my understanding if the last coat of ego had dissolved in Shankaracharya, there would have been no NirvanShatakam.

Note: Most of my writing comes from casual conversations around a cuppa or a random sentence left floating or observing a rather repetitive spiritual anecdote. There are many blogs that are already arising from this one. If you enjoyed reading and would like me to ramble on like this more. Leave a comment with your own bubbles of thought and we will thus have a conversation. And yes sure bring in your ego, Egos welcome!!