I once asked my teacher, who guided me to go and earn some money - as he had once been guided by his teacher in turn - what was most important, to accomplish the task before me. He turned and smiled to me "Purity of heart. Purity of heart is everything he said."
In the Course in Miracles there is a beautiful line about the nature of the healing relationship - it is a line which deserves serious meditation for any would be healer: "One rule should always be observed: No one should be turned away because he cannot pay." (P-3.III.6:1)
The central theme of a life is a person's Dharma. Dharma implies living a virtuous life - a life attuned to one's inner capacities and potentials. I always feel like the best way to appreciate Dharma is to consider the life of a great being. For example, one could take Shakespeare or Mozart or Hafiz or Rumi. How could Shakespeare, Hafiz and Rumi not write?! How could Mozart not compose music?! Life, when it is lived attuned to our inner potentials, is a song of gratefulness to our Creator....We may not all have the kind of genius of a Shakespeare or a Mozart...but we all have unique things to offer - and this is the critical issue - to live our truth and to do it with conviction and devotion.
A life that is lived well requires a stable mind - and when we are grounded in ourselves that means living out our inner potentials. It means being self-reliant. It means being a selfless example to others. The greatest teacher is he who teaches by example. But how does one represent a selfless example to the world and balance that with self-reliance?
Ralph Waldo Emerson in his essay "Self-Reliance" states that 'Society everywhere is in conspiracy against the manhood of every one of its members.' This is nowhere better brought to the fore than in the story of a great Sufi saint who came into a town and spent a week dragging a dead dog tied to his waist around the streets. This man was the real thing - a real Holy man ('holy' etymologically means to have a mind that is whole - not fragmented and hence conflicted - ie a mind that can be like a still pond - a mind that can reflect the true nature of our inner selves). He was totally wise to the foolishness of his fellow man. He practiced what is a dying art - ie he was an exponent of the school of crazy wisdom.
His teaching was plain and simple. "I am just imitating you who look upon me as crazy. I drag a dead dog around - but you are no different - you are attached to the "dead dog" of the body. Blind allegiance to its unending demands keeps you bound to the world of Maya...you are tied to Samsara by your own actions only...see the ludicrousness of your lives and let go the attachments which keep you bound and foolish." Only one man in the town saw the genius of the saint's actions and he knew him to be a great being.
Every one else decided this man was insane. Blind, regimented thinking and the habit of not questioning things deeper kept them all from self-reflection and deep transformations. In his book Zen and the Art of Motorcycle maintenance Robert Persig writes that, of all the people in his parish, none is likely to make the bishop more uncomfortable than the saint. A being who is freed of the shackles of desire and conformity - is a being untainted by fear - a being who cannot be blinded by dogma or doctrine; who is immune to any authority beyond that of the Author Himself.
Joseph Campbell wrote that "the society is the enemy when it imposes its structures on the individual. On the dragon there are many scales. Every one of them says "Thou Shalt." Kill the dragon "Thous Shalt." When one has killed that dragon, one has become The Child."
He adds that when we "come to the highest order of love...compulsive, uncontrollable, illicit love, where there is nothing but love and you are totally ripped out of yourself in relation to God. You are le fou, the crazed one who's gone mad with love....When you follow your passion, society's help is gone. You must be very careful. You're completely on your own."
This is the Path. You give up everything for That. The way of insecurity is the way of the only Real security. The way of security is the way of vested interests and attachment. Those who see the truth of this are privy to the sticky illusions of the world. You cannot move in this field of endeavor unless you have come across urgency in yourself. Everything which binds you must be dropped - or you are not able to move forward into newness. As Sri Ramakrishna put it: "Do not seek illumination unless you seek it as a man whose hair is on fire seeks a pond."
To be sane, to be free we must follow Emerson's dictum: "Whoso would be a man, must be a nonconformist." One must go deep into the mind to give the world anything authentic. Yet, society is so formulated that it is completely set against such a movement. As Campbell put it: "The function of the orthodox community is to torture the mystic to death: his goal."
The journey inward is a journey full of challenges. This is especially true in the modern context where the commercial realities of our world so dominates our actions. Emerson gives some advice on how to live authentically in the passage below:
"Trust thyself, every heart vibrates to that iron string. To believe your own thought, to believe that what is true for you in your private heart is true for all men, — that is genius. Speak your latent conviction, and it shall be the universal sense; for the inmost in due time becomes the outmost,—— and our first thought is rendered back to us by the trumpets of the Last Judgment. Familiar as the voice of the mind is to each, the highest merit we ascribe to Moses, Plato, and Milton is, that they set at naught books and traditions, and spoke not what men but what they thought. A man should learn to detect and watch that gleam of light which flashes across his mind from within, more than the lustre of the firmament of bards and sages. Yet he dismisses without notice his thought, because it is his. In every work of genius we recognize our own rejected thoughts: they come back to us with a certain alienated majesty. Great works of art have no more affecting lesson for us than this. They teach us to abide by our spontaneous impression with good-humored inflexibility then most when the whole cry of voices is on the other side. Else, to-morrow a stranger will say with masterly good sense precisely what we have thought and felt all the time, and we shall be forced to take with shame our own opinion from another.
There is a time in every man's education when he arrives at the conviction that envy is ignorance; that imitation is suicide; that he must take himself for better, for worse, as his portion; that though the wide universe is full of good, no kernel of nourishing corn can come to him but through his toil bestowed on that plot of ground which is given to him to till. The power which resides in him is new in nature, and none but he knows what that is which he can do, nor does he know until he has tried. Not for nothing one face, one character, one fact, makes much impression on him, and another none. This sculpture in the memory is not without pre-established harmony. The eye was placed where one ray should fall, that it might testify of that particular ray. We but half express ourselves, and are ashamed of that divine idea which each of us represents. It may be safely trusted as proportionate and of good issues, so it be faithfully imparted, but God will not have his work made manifest by cowards. A man is relieved and gay when he has put his heart into his work and done his best; but what he has said or done otherwise, shall give him no peace. It is a deliverance which does not deliver. In the attempt his genius deserts him; no muse befriends; no invention, no hope."
And Thoreau adds - as if in chorus with the above sentiments:
"If a man does not keep pace with his companions, perhaps it is because he hears a different drummer. Let him step to the music which he hears, however measured or far away."
So "To believe your own thought, to believe that what is true for you in your private heart is true for all men, — that is genius."
It takes a great deal of courage in our convictions to live that way. Emerson saw that "A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds." So how does one come to clarity and consistency? The first two limbs of the path of yoga give us some clues: Yama and Niyama.
Before I go into that, I want to share one more line by Emerson. He said that "To be great is to be misunderstood." When Jesus stormed into the temple he had a great deal of clarity. He was very much misunderstood by the establishment though. He, however, very much understood the ways of the mind - and, by default, he understood the vested interests and fear-mongering ways inherent in the ignorance that dominated the minds of the religious establishment and of the political elite of his time. To them he was undoubtedly a threat; the public liked him, indeed they may have been paying more attention to him than to the priests. The public listened to his lucid explanations of what was amiss in the religious establishment.
Jesus's teachings threatened the Temple's income and the sources of income for the Temple priests. At that time, Jewish people could only enter the Temple if they were ritually pure. Almost everyone arriving in Jerusalem for Passover was deemed ritually unclean. They had to use a mikveh before they could fulfill their religious obligations. Mikvehs are ritual baths which Jews use in order to purify themselves before any act of worship. The priests controlled the mikvehs and charged people to use them.
Jesus said that the whole thing was rubbish. He taught that the Kingdom of God was available to everyone and they didn't have to go through these rituals or pay the money in order to get there.
I come back again now to that quote in the Course in Miracles: "One rule should always be observed: No one should be turned away because he cannot pay." The Course is attributed to the voice of the Christ consciousness - it is interesting to hear that quote again in the context of the above story. Jesus was indeed a great being. He knew that healing relationships were polluted and destroyed by vested interests. He knew that one could never buy one's way to God.
The greatest way to teach is by example. Everything we do sets an example to the world of the principles we live by. I had a teacher who was an impeccable being. Impeccability is what the first two limbs of yoga strive for in the character. The yoga teacher Krishnamacharya was a man of impeccability. He was also a man who lived a life true to his dharma. He was guided by his teacher to go and teach yoga. This was at a time when yoga was looked down upon in India. Krishnamacharya was supremely well qualified and he could have taken up professorships at any number of prestigious institutions...but he went ahead and taught yoga. His teaching was a sign of his humble devotion to his teacher. He did it not for money - but out of love and gratefulness for what had been imparted to him. He suffered many hardships taking that path. But, as he was not in it for money or fame or for any kind of vested interests whatsoever, he was content and protected by life forces.
To rise to the example of individuals like Krishnamacharya in today's world takes a lot of determination and discrimination. It also demands guts. Jesus warned "Do not cast your pearls before swine, or they will trample them under their feet and turn and tear you." In Buddhism the central thought is compassion without attachment. To be a healer one must have compassion without attachment. That includes no attachment to the fruit of our actions. To live an authentic life and to be a healer is very challenging.
Sharing the gift of healing in a rational life is full of pitfalls. There is a quest every healer must take alone. He or she must go down into their own depths and bring something back which the world lacks - lacking it, the world does not know that it needs it. And so, on the return, when you come with your boon for the world and there is no reception, what are you going to do? There are three possible paths.
Joseph Campbell elucidates further:
"One answer is to say "to hell with them. I'm going back to the woods." You buy yourself a dog and a pipe and let the weeds grow in the gate. You have come back to the world with your gift and people look at you with glassy eyes, call you a "kook", and so you retreat. This is the refusal of the return.
The second way is to say, "What do they want? You have a skill. You can give them what they want, the commercial way. Then you have created a whole pitch for your expressivity, and what you had before gets lost. You have a public career, and you have renounced the jewel.
The third way is to try to find some aspect of the domain into which you have come that can receive a little portion of what you have to give. You try to find a means to deliver what you have found as the life boon in terms and in proportions that are proper to the world's ability to receive. It requires a good deal of compassion and patience. Look for cracks in the wall and give only to those who are ready for your jewel."
Krishnamacharya, Jesus, Rumi...they all took the third path. It is a path that does not compromise ones integrity. The other two paths do. The spiritual life cannot be commercialized. The spiritual life cannot be commercialized. I repeat that to lay emphasis on it, because in today's context it is a very strong temptation to think that it can.
A serious student will do whatever it takes to learn the teachings of life. If he needs to earn more money to be more stable in the world of Maya - if that will help him rise to his destiny he will do that (and he will do it without compromising his integrity). If he needs to give up the world and go and become a monk - he will do that. He will do whatever Life requires of him. It might require a lot of steadfastness and patience. Whatever he is required to do - if he is following Life's curriculum (rather than the ego's) he will be totally transformed by the process.
The trick is to be free of attachments of any sort. A good story to point out the inherent difficulties in this challenge is that of the meeting of Jesus with the rich man - as reported in the gospels. Jesus said to his disciple after this meeting: "I tell you the truth, it is hard for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven. Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God." Matthew 19:24.
The occasion of the saying, according to the gospel writers, was after a rich young man had asked Jesus what he needed to do in order to inherit eternal life. Jesus replied that he should first, keep the commandments (he listed only those concerning duty to men - but similar in a way to the first two limbs of yoga - yama and niyama), sell all his possessions, and give the money to the poor, and then to come, follow Jesus. Because of his great wealth, the young man was unwilling to do this. The point I believe that Jesus was trying to make was that if one is attached to anything one cannot know liberation from the defilements of the mind.
In the case of the rich man his attachment was greatest to his money and his position in the world. I don't believe Jesus' statement here is an indicment to all of us to give up our last penny to the poor and follow Jesus – i.e. to interpret this statement literally would be a mistake. I believe it is rather Jesus' way of pointing out that a selfish life is full of hidden misery and that to live sanely in an insane world one must recognize and let go of all our attachments.
In the case of the rich man he would have done well to follow Jesus's advice - for how many people have the opportunity to meet a teacher of Jesus's caliber in the flesh? The wider point though, for all of us - is not to be a slave to money or vested interests or anything...but rather to be a humble servant to our dharma - which means discovering what right speech and right livelihood are for our individual selves.
Just as a serious student must drop everything for a real teacher... a serious teacher should do whatever it takes to share the teachings if the student is truly serious. That is where money and society and expectations have to be thrown out. In the realm of love, money is nothing...in the realm of love, society is lost and blind.
A teacher must be devoted, inwardly loving and totally lacking in expectations of his or her students. Where there is expectation we are planting the seeds that sprout a sickly weed which stifles our being and campaigns to justify anger. Clearly, there is no love in such approach. Outwardly, a teacher must be appropriate in his behavior (sometimes the mask he wears is strict and distant; at other times warmth and affection accords better with the moment - it all depends on the needs of the student). Whatever is requisite of the teacher, he/she unambiguously aware (if he/she is a real teacher that is) that when it comes to the realm of healing - money and worldly position count for nothing...our motivations and intentions tell the real story. As my teacher said "Purity of heart is everything." Nothing happens without it.
The spiritual disciplines imparted by the teachings of Patanjali are not a model for a business but they are most definitely a model for discovering our real nature by unraveling the illusions within the mind and attuning the mind to the light of intelligence. However, if followed appropriately they will help us to be more honest and exacting in our business life. Ultimately yoga is a way of living - following its principles leads us to a life of joy amidst the sorrows of the world (sorrow is the inherent way of the world). The first two limbs of the eightfold path are as follows:
Yamas - restraints
1. Ahimsa - Non-harmfulness
2. Satya - Truthfulness
3. Asteya - to not steal
4. Brahmacharya - to maintain celibacy (traditional interpretation) - sense control (broadest meaning)
5. Aparigraha: absence of avariciousness, non-appropriation of things not one's own.
Niyamas - observances
1. Saucha: in the traditional codification, this item is listed under Yamas; this word means purity (eating clean food, keeping the body and mind clean etc).
2. Santosha: contentment.
3. Tapas: austerity.
4. Svadhyaya: self-study or study of spiritual scriptures.
5. Ishvarapranidhana: self-surrender/attunement to spirit/devotion to Ishvara - that supreme being/consciousness which is not infected with defilements/to take Ishvara as the exemplar of the values which you yourself strive to encompass (as laid down by the teachings of the Yoga Sutra)
These preliminary steps along the way are things which must be imbibed into the core of our being throughout the journey into yoga/our minds. To be content with what one has, to be attentive to the movement of thoughts in the mind, to be attuned to the inner teacher within us and to respect the teachings of the tradition we find ourselves attuned to (if we find ourselves in personal relationship with a teacher that is - some students transcend the need for a teacher, for example the Buddha made the journey completely alone) - these are all essential to rising to an impeccable state of being.
Only with these as givens can we move forward into the deeper levels of the transformative psychic experience (which is the path of Yoga). Speaking truth and being free of envy and having faith in life forces are also critical things (Emerson made poetry out of such sentiments in the previously quoted sections).
So, to sum up, it is essential that we be humbly aware of our own shortcomings and that we constantly reflect on them. That is the way of Svadhyaya or inner growth. It is essential that we be inwardly and outwardly honest. It is essential that we are self-reliant (hence poverty is not a state conducive to yoga - indeed poverty - whether spiritual poverty (which can manifest itself as attachment to money and worlldy power) or material poverty is a disease of the mind and disease is one of the obstacles to coming into the state of awareness that the path of yoga would have us venture into).
It is essential that we live selflessly in a selfish world - figuring out that equation takes a great deal of individual discernment. One must feed oneself...and one must figure out a way to be of service to our fellow man - but that service must be wisely put into practice ie, it is far better to teach a starving man to fend for himself than to give him scraps of food from your table.
It is essential that we do not commercialize healing...for then you throw the baby out with the bath water...and what you end up doing is anything but healing. It is essential, equally that we do not give blindly our pearls of insight to those who would only act to ridicule them. At the same time, no one should be turned away because he cannot pay. To the real teacher one serious, penniless student is a greater prize than a truckload of half-interested millionaires! It is essential that we calmly and inwardly question and test everyone - especially the teacher. For blind faith is not the way of intelligence nor is it the way of the noble heart.
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