dimanche 27 février 2011

Native Americans and Yoga: Symbolism East and West



Symbolism East and the West

Native Americans and Yoga

I have with me a book, since 2004, which I have not begun to read: Veda and Torah: Transcending the Textually of Scripture. The title and the weight of the tome are daunting. When I saw the book at my favourite book haunt in Bangalore, Premier Bookstore (alas, no more! I am told), the very title prompted me to buy it.

I am not a comparative analyst, nor am I particularly religious. I am very strongly bound to being Jewish and I don't share Messianic views proposed and believed in by the Oriental Jews.

These two traditions, Judaism and the Yoga remained quite distinct in my mind. Until February of 2010, I was totally ignorant of Yoga and its practice or its philosophy. It may have something to do with the aversion of Yoga being adopted so eagerly by the New Age followers in the USA.

In February 2010, a graduate and a teacher at Yoga Institute in Santa Cruz in Bombay came to KL and in four days, she talked and talked about the philosophy of Yoga and we did some basic asana. Two of the four of us in the audience were already converted to Yoga practice and the other person who was devoid of Yoga knowledge has since become an ardent practitioner of Yogic philosophy.

While listening to Miss VY expounding the yogic philosophy, I was surprised and content at the similarity between what she was saying and what I had heard from the Native American Elders. While the Sanskrit words she described were unknown to me, much of what she was saying was not foreign.

It is foolish to compare various philosophies and try to find affinities, which may create pseudoscientific pretensions. I was surprised to find that the San people of the Kalahari had very similar stories and legends about the Seven Sisters in the sky, but that does not mean that they are linguistically or racially related. It just meant the both groups have been around for millennia and had the chance to observe the skies with clarity and leisure.

So what is that a scholar finds so interesting to spend time in years and effort to write a book such as Veda and Torah?

Can my affinity for Native American way of thinking provide a clue?

Just this morning, I was reading the book, How to reverse Heart Disease the Yogic way. One page I came across initially was, Yoga and the Challenges of Marriage. I quote a sentence from the book, “True happiness comes only in making others happy; this is the inherent jewel of Yoga. Each partner has first to look to the happiness of his beloved and then to his own”

When I read this sentence it struck such a chord in my heart. I distinctly remember two of my friends from the Hocank and UmonHon Nations, telling me over and over again.

Sacrifice, Gratitude

The UmonHon said to me: if you wish to have a content relationship with another, however difficult it may be, it becomes easier, when you put the other person first.

The HoCank said to me: What you do for others, especially sacrificing for others, and then the Great Spirit hears your plea. Without that, nothing would work.

In her erudite analysis, which I will now have to read in full, Barbara Holdrege says: In the Brahmanical tradition and Kabbalistic/rabbinic tradition there are certain structural affinities in the symbol system of these scriptural traditions.

Being Jewish and having closed lived in and experienced affinity with North American native Indian traditions, I can see that Symbols are what has brought out the similarities in these great traditions, in my mind.

And I thought of what Lame Deer of Lakota had said:


"We Sioux spend a lot of time thinking about everyday things which in our minds are mixed up with the spiritual. We see in the world around us many symbols that teach us the meaning of life. We have a saying that the white man sees so little, he must see with only one eye. We see a lot that you no longer notice. You could notice if you wanted to, but you are usually too busy. We Indians live in a world of symbols and images where the spiritual and commonplace are one...We try to understand them not with the head but with the heart"
Lame Deer

He also had this to say about Sacrifice and Suffering:

The difference between the white man and us is this: You believe in the redeeming powers of suffering, if this suffering was done by somebody else, far away, two thousand years ago. We believe that it is up to every one of us to help each other, even through the pain of our bodies. ...We do not lay this burden onto our God, nor do we want to miss being face to face with the Spirit Power. ...We want no angel or saint to gain it for us and give it to us second-hand."

Lame Deer, Lakota

Written on a fine morning in Paris, France

Dedicated to my best friend in Asia, MC

Thinking of all who matter to me: M/L in Paris,

LL in Havana, MS of UmonHon, JS in Miami, SL of Kickapoo, MS in South Dakota, Brothers R and E, sisters R in SF and D in Yakama. Thanks VY in Bombay and JOSK in Al Aways. And NM in Tehran

CP in Baracoa….