Monthly Archives: January 2018

Reflecting on Mandukya Upanisad in a seemingly transient world

In light of this weekend’s false alarm of eminent nuclear attack, it makes one contemplate our brief existence in this embodiment and in this time. For serious yoga practitioners, the purusha, one’s soul is seen as permanent. Everything else is prakriti, or transient nature. The lila and maya, our dance with this illusion plays itself out every day.

I saw a funny meme on Facebook the other day. It said “maybe actually plants are farming us, giving us oxygen until we eventually decompose and they can consume us.” I am finding it funny that people differentiate between vegetarian and meat eaters. With my brief experience in gardening, I am realizing that plants are perhaps the most voracious meat eaters around. Browse any garden section and you see “bone meal” “fish meal” “chicken manure” etc. used as fertilizers. All fertilizers have three numbers that correspond to the percentage of nitogren, phosphorous, and potassium. There are also specialized fertilizers with trace minerals and other elements.

One realizes that we are made of the same elements of all that which surrounds us. Yoga philosophy gives us the panchamahabhutas (five gross elements) of Earth, water, fire, air, and space. As simplistic as that sounds for the scientific mind, the ancient texts state that the same elements in us are the same elements throughout the cosmos. Not so simple after all, but rather complex and mind expanding.

The main idea I have taken from the Mandukya Upanisad, is that OM is the Alpha and the Omega of the Universe. It is all pervasive and timeless. Since the Upanisad is so short, I will share it here. In 12 terse verses, The Mandukya Upanishad defines the Pranava, or sacred syllable OM:

1. OM! This Imperishable Word is the whole of this visible universe. Its explanation is as follows: What has become, what is becoming, what will become – verily, all of this is OM. And what is beyond these three states of the world of time – that too, verily, is OM.

2. All this, verily, is Brahman. The Self is Brahman. This Self has four quarters.

3. The first quarter is Vaiśvānara. Its field is the waking state. Its consciousness is outward-turned. It is seven- limbed and nineteen-mouthed. It enjoys gross objects.

4. The second quarter is taijasa. Its field is the dream state. Its consciousness is inward-turned. It is seven-limbed and nineteen-mouthed. It enjoys subtle objects.

5. The third quarter is prājña, where one asleep neither desires anything nor beholds any dream: that is deep sleep. In this field of dreamless sleep, one becomes undivided, an undifferentiated mass of consciousness, consisting of bliss and feeding on bliss. His mouth is consciousness.

6. This is the Lord of All; the Omniscient; the Indwelling Controller; the Source of All. This is the beginning and end of all beings.

7. That is known as the fourth quarter: neither inward- turned nor outward-turned consciousness, nor the two together; not an indifferentiated mass of consciousness; neither knowing, nor unknowing; invisible, ineffable, intangible, devoid of characteristics, inconceivable, indefinable, its sole essence being the consciousness of its own Self; the coming to rest of all relative existence; utterly quiet; peaceful; blissful: without a second: this is the Ātman, the Self; this is to be realised.

8. This identical Ātman, or Self, in the realm of sound is the syllable OM, the above described four quarters of the Self being identical with the components of the syllable, and the components of the syllable being identical with the four quarters of the Self. The components of the Syllable are A, U, M.

9. Vaiśvānara, whose field is the waking state, is the first sound, A, because this encompasses all, and because it is the first. He who knows thus, encompasses all desirable objects; he becomes the first.

10. Taijasa, whose field is the dream state, is the second sound, U, because this is an excellence, and contains the qualities of the other two. He who knows thus, exalts the flow of knowledge and becomes equalised; in his family there will be born no one ignorant of Brahman.

11. Prājña, whose field is deep sleep, is the third sound, M, because this is the measure, and that into which all enters. He who knows thus, measures all and becomes all.

12. The fourth is soundless: unutterable, a quieting down of all relative manifestations, blissful, peaceful, non-dual. Thus, OM is the Ātman, verily. He who knows thus, merges his self in the Self – yea, he who knows thus.

Om śantih; śantih; śantih

 

 

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Teaching yoga while the world goes nuts

 

I teach an ongoing Saturday morning class from 8 to 9 am at the base of Diamond Head in Honolulu. I tend to keep a pretty strict no cell phone policy, and my long time students adhere and enforce it to newcomers. Today, Hawai’i residents had the horror of receiving this alert just shortly after 8 am:

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Growing up in the 80s, I can remember a good part of my teenaged years were spent wondering if they were going to drop the bomb at the height of the Cold War between the then Soviet Union and US. I haven’t really had this feeling since the Berlin Wall came down that nuclear annihilation was a possibility. This gave me chills.

Fortunately, it was an error. More fortunately, I did not get the alert during class, nor did my students because of the said phone policy. My class actually went well today for my seven attendees. I could see all my student’s faces in Savasana being very peaceful. How could we have known that the outside would be still be in absolute panic as the word that it was a false alarm did not come until about 45 minutes after the alert?

Others were not as fortunate. Video came in of a man trying to get his young daughter to go into a manhole in the street as she cried that she did not want to go in to it and wondered why. Also, University of Hawai’i students were running around campus in a panic like a cheesy 50s armageddon sci-fi movie. It was bedlam for many.

Today I had to have a conversation with my wife about what we would do if we were at our job sites during the week if this happened. Basically, call to say “I love you” and get to shelter, hoping for the best. If we were at home? Fill up the bathtubs with fresh water and get my mother in law on her wheelchair and go to the middle of the house where impact many not be as devastating? Not to mince words, a scary fucking conversation I wish to never have to have again.

In this age of heightened tension, I feel we as yoga practitioners have a duty to work for peace. That can come in many different forms. I am grateful that my class spared my students an hour of unnecessary panic from a stupid bureaucratic mistake. I feel we need to have higher standards for our elected officials who have seemed to get us into this mess on both a local and national level. As 2018 is an election year, I feel we can make a difference if we feel things are not running as well in this country as it could. So perhaps another way to work for peace is to make you way to the voting booth in November…if we can make it until then.

 

Happy New Year! Startin’ with the garden

As many of my readers are probably having to wear a heavy coat now, I’d like to start the new year right, with a few pictures of warmth from my garden. It is year two of my Fukuoka-style of gardening. An unusually wet Hawai’i December has yielded wonderful results.

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Chilly? How about Chile? This pepper plant barely survived last year’s summer. Now it is producing long delicious capsaicin-rich Cayennes. I think these are the kind that Chef Pasquale uses and calls “Oh yeah babys.”

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The tall grass is a natural trellis for these snap peas. Once they reach the “roof” of this table-like trellis my wife and I put up last year they start going wild. Can you spot the camouflaged gecko on the bamboo? Those guys help me control the unwanted pests in the garden.

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This patch of bush beans produced so many green beans I was able to make a dish for Christmas dinner with family visitors.

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Across the yard our Meyer lemon tree is staring to produce its first bounty. These in time will swell up to full sized lemons. Enough to give away to family and friends.

I don’t want to bore you with the rest of the produce, but there is also a pumpkin, eggplant, bitter melon, saluyot, and daikon sprouting in this space.

The only work I did in the garden was throw seeds and trim the grass with a hand sickle. Nature has taken care of the rest of the labor. Stay tuned and happy new year!