Om purnam adah purnam idam purnat purnam udachyate
purnasya purnam adaya purnam evavashishyate
That is whole. This is whole. From the whole the whole becomes manifest. From the whole when the whole is negated, what remains is again the whole.Yajur Veda and the Isha Upanishad
Yoga practices are magical practices. Magic happens when there is a shift in perception—what you thought was real drops away to reveal a more expanded enlightened reality. Yoga practices, fueled by a sincere intention for Self-realization, will transform habitual ways of seeing: of relating, to ourselves and others. Our thoughts, words and deeds are all interconnected with our relationships – it is what life is about. But, to the enlightened yogi, there are no “others.” In the yogic state of samadhi, the boundaries that separate you from God, as well as the world around you, the world of otherness, all dissolve. It takes some heavy-duty magic to accomplish a shift in perception like that!
The word perception means “to see.” But it means seeing with more than just the physical eyes. It means more than just to understand, but “to realize.” The English word “understand” implies a duality, as if you’re standing under something. But to really realize something is to immerse yourself and have a complete experience of it—to become with that something. And what is realized, or perceived, during samadhi is the one-ness of being. Otherness disappears as you see your own Self in others, revealing that only Love is real.
The chakras are doors of perception into new dimensions of reality. The bija mantras are the passwords or keys that open the doors to each one of these chakras, to each one of these worlds. Bija means “seed” in the sense of a potency or distilment, where something very large is compressed into something very small, compact and essential. Having something in a compact form is very good for traveling! That’s what we are doing in life. Our souls are journeying, traveling through dimensions of reality to our true home.
All of the yoga practices are purification practices that help us lighten our baggage so our travel is smoother. The system of asana has been very particularly designed to help purify our bodies, which are made of our karmas that come from our relationships. Yoga gives us the tools to purify our perception by removing the only dirt that really is: ignorance or avidya. That ignorance is caused by misperception, not being able to see or perceive ourselves, others and reality clearly.
We can purify our perception through the only cleanser that is known to have the most wondrous results with absolutely no side effects. It’s like Clorox bleach without any chlorine. It’s like the most incredible detergent that doesn’t pollute any water system and doesn’t wear out the clothes in the washing machine. The magical cleanser I am talking about is love. When you can truly love others and yourself you can love God. Forgiveness of others and ourselves, as well as letting go of blaming, complaining and explaining, is necessary to allow love to work its magic.
Shri Brahmananda Sarasvati described yoga as “the state where you are needing nothing.” You realize that you are a holy being—that you are whole. Eventually, as the dawning of this wholesome yogic enlightenment appears, you find yourself letting go of selfish tendencies and less compelled to blame others or see yourself as the victim of any type of abuse or circumstance.
Because we carry in our bodies our unresolved karmas, sometimes negative emotions can arise during the asana practice. Emotions such as fear, jealousy, anger, vengeance, cynicism, doubt and lack of faith are the results of karmas or actions we have done in our past that were not guided by love. These dark emotions are obstacles that cloud our vision and can stop us from feeling connected to our eternal true nature. We can address those troubling emotions through love and start to shift our perception away from disconnection and toward stability and joy—in other words towards sthira and sukham.
This way of thinking, where we as an individual do our best to enhance the lives of others and even the Earth herself, is quite new in a culture that is based on the assumption that the Earth belongs to us, and that to be happy, we must take from others. Fear causes us to feel that if we give we will lose – that there will be less for us. Through the practice of yoga we become fearless and daring. Instead of feeling incomplete, motivated by the need to take from others to feel whole, we might dare to ask, “What can I do for others? How could I live in such a way that my life enhances planet Earth?” This kind of shift in perception can be a huge turnaround, freeing us from cultural conditioning that may have been distorting our perception of reality for many years, even lifetimes. But selfless actions motivated by love are the kinds of actions that will lead to samadhi, living liberated, as a jivanmukta living in the light of love as joyful whole, holy beings.
Essay by Sharon Gannon