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jeudi 19 mai 2011

The Experience of Raja Yoga: Notes from Malaysia

What is the image of Yoga in the western mind? Twisted bodies in contorted poses, clean studios where a group of people meditating or out in the open, preferably by swaying palms or poses which reminds them of something religious.
Yoga has the techniques of course, Asanas which are postures and Pranayama which are Breathing to enhance the oxygenation of your body and also parts of the body not usually oxygenated and further cleansing techniques of the Nose and Stomach.

If you are doing just this, are they valuable? What is important is the EXPERIENCE these bring to us, what does it do when we do the breathing exercises, does it bring you the peace of mind. Does the meditation bring you concentration? Do you feel more tranquil after harnessing the minds wandering nature?
When I was thinking of the above, I was very much reminded of Maurice Merleau-Ponty and his description of Phenomenology of Perception. I agree this is a thick description but not far from the ancient wisdom of Yoga.
Merleau-Ponty's existential-phenomenological epistemology and ontology can be seen as resolving the problem of Meno's paradox, and it does so by relentlessly demonstrating how both empiricism and rationalism fail to do so. Merleau-Ponty writes: "Empiricism cannot see that we need to know what we are looking for, otherwise we would not be looking for it, and intellectualism (rationalism) fails to see that we need to be ignorant of what we are looking for, or equally again we should not be searching." (Phenomenology of Perception)

"All consciousness is perceptual...The perceived world is the always presupposed foundation of all rationality, all value and all existence."

Those who have understood the philosophy of Raja Yoga would immediately understand what Merleau-Ponty was trying to say: Life is the Reality. And Raja Yoga trains a person to change that perception to become conscious of it while experiencing the reality of life.
While we think of Spirituality as more of an Eastern way of living, I feel that Spirituality is the same for all peoples, it is just that they arrive it using different philosophies.
Attachment or detachment is something you always come across when discussing Spirituality.
One very ordinary example I can give you. There are people who go to poor countries and live like poor people amidst them and try to make changes in their lives or even convert them into another religion. Whereas there are others, who have good understanding of the way of thinking of the local groups and try not to change them and also not go to the farce of living with them, knowing fully well that it would be just artificial. It is not necessarily to experience every kind of activity.
If you hear that something has happened to your inner circle of friends or family, you feel the pain, but you may not feel the pain if it happened in another country and to another group of people. But to feel the pain of all is advisable, not ignore the suffering but perhaps one learns with a higher understanding of the events, to another level of detachment. Decreasing desires is an important step towards inner happiness. Desires not only in the material sense but in other senses as well. Complete rejection of all pleasures and activities are not recommended, but that which disturbs your peace of mind has to be understood. Doing something expecting nothing in return, an altruism that I saw my own father practice, brings you pleasure and happiness.
There is a school of thought that expects you to express all your anger and fury, but it is not necessarily so. You can learn from your own experience and if you are wise you can learn from somebody’s experience. Those who are aware gain more understanding, also comes with acceptance of the other. While watching the action that give rise to anger in another person, you can control that anger and not participate in the reaction to that particular action.
Here we can also learn to accept the other person, we are not responsible for his actions but we are grateful for what they have taught us by their reactions and spared us the anger. Thus we can accept them for what they are.
We must also be careful not to try and change the other person, but learn to accept that person as they are. Change occurs when that person is ready.
One thing I had observed among the native americans, one of the many in fact, was that the practice of spirituality required no special place and very few rituals. The Medicine Man belonged to the community like every one else, being Spiritual carried no special status, they were involved in the life of the community like every one else. So it was gratifying for me to learn that at the Yoga Institute in Bombay, they teach that Yoga has to be practiced by those who are involved in Life.