Yoga
Cultivating Santosha

Cultivating Santosha

In modern times, we are bombarded with cultural and familial messages that aim to stir our discontent. There are thousands of advertisements on television and in other media including magazines, movies, books, and newspapers, telling us that we can have more, achieve more, and be more. Doesn’t the army tell us, “Be all that you can be?” How about the message of consumerism, where once it was just the way of First World countries, it is now global and poses a serious threat to the health of the planet. One would think that enough is enough, but our yogic principles often come crashing down in the face of cultural messages we have been programmed with since early childhood. On the one hand, we try to practice detachment, knowing that all things are impermanent, and on the other we long for romance, wealth, power and adventure. So, where does this leave us, with so many contradictory messages?

Santosha is a Sanskrit word meaning ‘ease of heart’ or ‘heartfelt gratitude and acceptance.’ It is contentment with things just as they are. As long as we are longing for something else, some other person, place, or situation, we cannot actually be happy. Our minds cannot be tranquil and we cannot eventually achieve enlightenment, or a disassociation to the ego.

Some say Santosha can be found by…

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Eco Friendly Yoga Mats

Eco Friendly Yoga Mats

Dearest ahimsa, how you make so much sense on all levels, but how hard it is to follow you. And oh how if you were a person, I’d probably punch you in the face out of frustration. In case you don’t know what ahimsa is, there are eight limbs of yoga, one of which is the yamas, and ahimsa or “non violence” is one of those. I won’t go any deeper into it which no doubt has some yoga scholars chomping at the bit, but many will take ahimsa to the level of trying to be environmentally friendly. You know, non violent towards mother earth and all her cute cuddly animals (mosquitoes don’t count according to the Buddha and neither do veggies because we can’t hear them scream). As such, it’s quite natural that yoga practitioners are purchasing “eco friendly yoga mats” in droves.

What IS “eco friendly” anyway? Well, let’s say that you’re my friend. And I punch you really hard in the face and break your nose. Am I being friendly? Of course not. Now let’s say that I punch you in the face but not as hard and only cause a nose bleed. Am I being friendly? To be friendly, I wouldn’t punch you at all. To be “eco friendly”, you cannot…

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An Overview of Vedanta Part 1

An Overview of Vedanta Part 1

Traditionally Vedanta is considered the highest knowledge. (Vedanta = Veda (knowledge) + antah (end). Some say that the name is also given because the Upanishads appear at the ending of each of the Vedas. A study of Vedanta normally encompasses three main works:-

(a) Upanishads
(b) Bhagavad Gita
(c) Brahma Sutras

(There are more than 200 known Upanishads. Some consider 108 of the as important. The principal Upanishads are said to be be 9 in number-there is no consistency on this, with some authorities talking about…

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Modernism, Mantras and Mudras

Modernism, Mantras and Mudras

From its ancient beginnings in the temples and ashrams of India to the slick air-conditioned gyms of New York, the evolution of Yoga has been rich and diverse. Hatha yoga has recently taken the world by storm as Hollywood stars, housewives and business people line up to practice asana for exercise, stress release and relaxation. Yoga techniques are now being integrated into schools and workplaces, while employers contract yoga teachers to give classes to investment bankers, teachers and advertising executives to build happier, stress-free workplaces. Meanwhile, Yoga and meditation are being used to improve worker concentration and productivity. But all this begs the question: does the manifestation of yoga in the west conflict with the traditional aims of yoga?

The main difference between traditional approaches to yoga and many of its contemporary manifestations in the west is that traditionally yoga has been a tool for self-transcendence. The eight limbs of the path of self- transcendence are presented by Patanjali as a practical tool for moving towards liberation. Through the practice of discipline (yama), restraint (niyama) posture (asana), breath control (pranayama), sense withdrawl (pratyahara), concentration (dharana), and meditation (dhyana) the practitioner can experience ecstasy (samadhi). It is at the heights of this ecstatic unification with all beings throughout space and time that true Selfhood is experienced. But in this experience there is no longer one who experiences this unification. Any distinction between self and other has dropped away as the yogi/ni moves ‘beyond all formulations, creeds, dogmas, models, theories or points of view’ (Feurstein, 1998:33. Because of the traditional focus of yoga as a path for transcending the small, separate self there seems to be little room for…

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Qualifications of a Seeker

Qualifications of a Seeker

Vedanta is the study of knowledge of the “Self”. Here “Self” is the English term used to refer to Atman or Brahman. These texts are the Upanishads, found usually at the end of the Vedas. Hence the term Veda + Anta (end) is “End of the Vedas”. An appropriate name actually since Vedanta can be thought as the end of knowledge-the final crest of knowledge beyond which a higher knowledge does nto exist.

There are more than 200 known Upanishads. Some consider 108 of the as important. The principal Upanishads are said to be be 9 in number-there is no consistency on this with some authorities talking about 11 and 13 also.

In Vedanta, we have a term “Adhikari”. An Adhikari is one who…

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Raja Yoga Explained

Raja Yoga Explained

Raja Yoga translates from Sanskrit to mean Royal Yoga. It is the eight-limbed path outlined in Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras as well as a tradition of Samkyha philosophy. Sage Kapila was considered the founder of the samkyha tradition and it is from his teachings from which Raja yoga was passed to modern yogis. Almost all modern yoga practiced has some kind of relationship to Raja yoga or Hatha yoga, and yogis of the time did not call it Raja yoga, but aptly just ‘yoga.’ The term Raja yoga was first introduced in the the Hatha Yoga Pradipkia near the 15th century to describe a yoga philosophy that differs form the teachings of Yogi Swatmarama. At its core, Raja yoga is the cultivation of meditation or Dhyana, practiced by yogis once called the Brahma Kumaris.

Raja yoga is often referred to as the…

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Yoga for Chronic Fatigue Syndrome

Yoga for Chronic Fatigue Syndrome

CFS, or Chronic Fatigue Syndrome can be debilitating. It causes all kinds of non-specific symptoms including weakness, impaired memory, and fatigue for no reason, loss of concentration, varied muscle pains, headaches, sore throat, insomnia and apathy. The list of ailments is also sometimes called Fibromyalgia, or ‘yuppie flu.’ Although the symptoms of CFS have not been conclusively agreed upon by physicians for diagnosis, the illness can last for years. To the added distress of the physician trying to diagnosis the illness, and the patient suffering from it, many of the symptoms are often indicative of other problems, and must be ruled out first, so the process of diagnosis can be slow in allopathic medicine. Many sufferers of CFS report having lowered physical and mental activity when symptoms are bad, and often lose hope of feeling better. Yogic medicine may succeed where allopathic medicine falls short, and be able to offer a cure for this troubling set of symptoms.

Some allopathic doctors might prescribe exercise to sufferers of CFS thinking that the patient needs…

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The Incredible Power of Mantra

The Incredible Power of Mantra

The great yogic sage, Patanjali once described many yogic tools that could affect our internal systems. These included diet, movement, sleep, breath, and also the use of sound or chanting mantra. If we were to compare the human being to a highly evolved computer system, we would see that there are two ways in which programs are fed into the computer’s CPU, or central processing unit. Through a study in energetics and in the cognitive affect of archetypal images connected with sound, we could greatly control the output of our CPU. In short, sound creates form.

Lots of research has been conducted in the last twenty years regarding the affect of sound on the human brain. We now know that the brain is taken to different levels of cognition and awareness based on the frequency of a pitch. Sound is actually the interruption or disturbance of mechanical energy that propagates through physical objects as a wave. It is measured in Hz. There are more complex ways to measure sound that have to do with the amplitude of the wave, but for now, it is sufficient to know how sound occurs in our environment.

There are four different types of brain states that are affected by…

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The Historical Development of Samkhya Philosophy

The Historical Development of Samkhya Philosophy

The study of Samkhya philosophy is important because its metaphysics are pervasive in Indian philosophy. Yoga philosophy in particular is closely related to Samkhya. Therefore understanding Indian philosophy in general and Yoga philosophy in particular requires an understanding of Samkhya philosophy. This article presents an overview of the historical development of the Samkhya philosophy.

Samkhya is one of the oldest and most influential of the six Indian darsanas. According to traditional Indian accounts, the legendary sage Kapila was the first to organize Samkhya thought in a systematic way. According to the Samkhya-Karika, the teaching originated with Kapila, it was passed by him to Asuri, from Asuri to Panchasikha, and through tradition of disciples to Krishna. Beyond that, a few teachers are known.

Four Interpretations

In the history of western studies of Samkhya philosophy, there have been four interpretations of its historical development:

1. Dr. Zimmer, in his Philosophies of India, expressed the view that Samkhya is pre-Vedic and non-Aryan in origin. He based his view on observations of similarities between Samkhya philosophy and that of the Jains, which he considered to be remote, aboriginal, and non-Vedic, and also on his observation that Kapila, the traditional founder of Samkhya, falls outside the traditional assembly of…

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Sowing Seeds Along The Path

Sowing Seeds Along The Path

Q: You said in your talks that “practice” along the spiritual path is for preparing your inner space for transformation. How should one prepare the space exactly?

A: Attention is required to sow the seeds, but you cannot pull the flowers out of them. Effort is just for the sake of preparing the ground, but the season, and the blossoms in the season, are beyond your control. Though these are forces beyond you, when the inner space is prepared with all of the ingredients in place, the blossoming of enlightenment is certain without a doubt.

There are many ways to prepare the mind for seeing into a dimension beyond mind, for nirvikalpa samadhi. That is why it has always been said that the paths are many, but they all eventually come to the same realization of the one Brahman. What is important is not so much what path you tread, but that whatever path you tread, you go all the way until the path is killed. Like anything else in life, if we want to create a suitable atmosphere for growth, a certain one-pointedness and commitment is needed, one`s energies cannot simply be scattered here and there. When we talk about “paths” we are just talking about different possibilities for inner transformation and the discovery of one’s Buddhahood. Of course, even if you had a million lifetimes, you would not be able to explore all the possibilities. What is important is to engage in one path – but with absolute intensity, be total with your whole body, heart, and mind. When I say intensity in action, I should clarify what I mean…

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