Shaucha is one of the Niyamas. It is purification. Purity is the result of purification, or the by-product of the process of purification. A student of Yoga will have to spend some part of the day practicing tapah, which encompasses the yama, the niyama, the asanas, pranayama, and some part of the day in study and observation – kriya yoga.

Observation comes after the studying, observing directly in one’s own life, because knowledge doesn’t become understanding unless verified by personal observation. It is the direct, immediate, intimate contact with the fact that you have with study, therefore a communion with the fact. This is Swadhayaya, both study and observation. Kriya Yoga is the yoga through activity and action together, so kriya yoga includes Tapah and Swadhayaya. The study purifies the brain, cleansing the intellect of all ignorance, of all imbalances, all impurities. After the brain is cleansed through study, the observation purifies.

Now, we can discern from clarity. When what is seen, perceived and communed becomes the substance of your life, then there is no possibility of forgetting, it is no more part of memory. It is a dimension of purity that is incorruptible, undamageable, inaccessible to confusion. When you have clarity you know it because there is no such thing as no longer having clarity at a later time. If you feel this happens, then you never had clarity to begin with.

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Of the Niyamas, “Tapah” is one that can easily be misunderstood, either by improper translation or improper interpretation, both leading to misapplication of otherwise strong efforts. What it is not, is a torture, as in to make the body fast, or deny its demands, suppressing and repressing. It is an austerity. This is to live the truth you understand. Tapas is to educate the body through experience – Asanas, Pranayama, Pratyahara, etc., so that it can set itself free of the clutches of conditionings. Conditionings cannot be destroyed but you can release yourself from their hold, their domination, their clutches.

Austerity is required to live the truth you have perceived. Without perceiving the truth there can be no tapah because that is passive repetition of certain codes of conduct. If you understand the truth about diet then you do not move an inch away from your understanding about diet. If you understand something about sleep, such things as how much sleep is necessary, when to give the body sleep, what kind of bed should be given, then you live that truth. What kind of exercises to be given, what clothes to be worn, how to use sound, how to use the mind, and movement of thought, once you are acquainted with, observe, and understand it, then you live the understanding. That is Tapah.

I often hear people refer to their more virtuous behavior characteristics as something they own with pride. “I’m a nice person”. “I help people”. “I do yoga”. “I’m a vegan”. Ahimsa is non-killing, non-violence, and it is a dedicated awareness of the wholeness of Life, becoming a value of your life.

It isn’t just a physical level non-killing. If you are a vegetarian but kill the hearts of people with cruelty, cold glances and destructive, abusive words, you are a violent person and the vegetarianism does nothing for you in terms of ahimsa, in terms of all of Life. Attacking, invading the psyche of other people, most probably fueled by your “I-ness”, your own ego, you may not kill physically but you are killing psychologically, hurting by eyes, hurting by words.

Many people in the modern world addicted to smoking cigarettes, another ego weakness, somehow hypocritically choose to be vegetarian or vegan with a spiritual purpose. They carry their good deeds as badges toward validation of the goodness of their characters, missing the point completely. You don’t do one thing and then do another that is the opposite and take credit. These people may as well just eat all the meat they can and kill the animals themselves; the resultant action would be the same in terms of non-killing, but probably more in line with honesty. Ahimsa is one of the Yamas that are built upon wholistic living, an intelligent, harmonious relationship.

Start with what you call every day, normal thoughts, actions, perceptions. This is an idea filled with things we can all generally agree upon because we have all learned the names of things, definitions of surroundings, basically all that man has created for us in consciousness to refer to so that we may function in society as civilizations and cultures. Our modern way of living ignores the dimension of Silence or motionlessness. Meditation is a silence and an aloneness, a necessary self-education. If you were to still the body on the outside, stillness from walking, standing, running, sitting, you still must go deeper and still the internal movements. So, you put the body in a posture which is convenient, agreeable, enjoyable to the body and persuade it to be steady for half an hour.

Then you close your eyes so that the eyes make no contact with any matter outside the body. As soon as the eyes see an object, then your learned memory will turn up the name of the object, your attachment to the object, your likes, dislikes, prejudices, judgements, and so the movement begins, so closing the eyes is a help.

You abstain from speaking, something taught in order to function at school, at a job, communicating in public. When speaking is silenced, we do it internally, chattering to ourselves, trained to think, to acquire and organize information, comparing and evaluating, making judgements. The brain is always busy. We have become addicted to the movement of knowledge within us.

Sitting in silence, we are educating the brain to be free of that incessant movement of knowing, experiencing, accepting, and rejecting. Once you have tasted the nectar of Silence, then it does not matter whether you are sitting in a room or walking on a street, talking to people; the quality of aloneness, the quality of motionlessness, the freeness of thought does not get affected by physical or verbal movement.

Before you are living in harmony with non-knowing, stillness, silence, it may help to acknowledge who you are in this cosmos. Outside of the perspective of knowing, the man-made definitions of the cosmic life, there is no death. There is not Life, creation, and destruction. There is only emergence of creative energies and merging back, a cyclic movement. Remember that you are a newborn baby that does not yet know any of the ideas that man has put into your brain to fool you into knowing a false reality. You experienced this when you were born and it is still with you now as you strip away all of the things that keep you moving and addicted to moving. Not knowing is where Truth lies. The rivers and oceans and sky and land were here long before man came into existence, long before man gave these things their names, before there was knowing, and here lies the Truth. When you still your mind and body the Truth remains and in the Silence is Everything.


Discernment in Yoga

May 5, 2010

There is at the core of Yoga, discrimination. One key thing to remember about yoga for yourself is that it is only about you and no one else, until you make decisions to include others into what may be your practice. Just as you may decide to include people into your life as friends or acquaintances, there is a process that each of us has that is a personal acceptance strategy. We all have our own reasons for acceptance or non-acceptance, and yoga should be no different, lest we prepare for distractions in our practice. Although the actions related to yoga lifestyle exude acceptance of everyone and love for all, it does not mean the inclusion of a level of comfort that invites lax behavior leading to a slowing or halting of growth. Through my personal yoga practice, I have attained everything I owe to yoga without the inclusion of another, by discriminating to keep all possibility of distraction in my power away from my practice. I am not convinced that a class setting can be as beneficial to a practitioner as this kind of practice where there is nothing to distract the mind, both conscious and unconscious. But this is my perspective, and others may vehemently disagree, and that is their path to take. The single most important step in discrimination I urge all to take is not to follow another’s move but instead to read and meditate and practice from a place within that is true and take the first moves forward from there. Yoga in the western world is being filtered through our culture and understanding of experiences that may or may not ordinarily exist without yoga. That sets up a lot of individuals for a misunderstanding of what yoga is, and it is very easy to have a class full of people utterly confused and in the dark. A common phrase these days is “to take yoga”, and is at the crux of this kind of misunderstanding, whether it is meant to be misleading or not, listeners are always interpreting and misinterpreting. I can go my entire life without taking yoga, because that is something I have no interest in. I must discriminate, however, in order to live and be yoga.