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Lesson 2: Online Education in Yoga by Sri Prashant S. Iyengar

Synopsis Yoga is a subject about education about oneself. It is a mirror for understanding oneself. We are supposed to be knowers of the kṣetra [field] which is our śarīra [very loosely translated as body]. The body in this case is not what the anatomists and physiologists study. It includes the gross [sthūla], subtle [sūkṣma] and causal [karaṇa]. Yoga is a pursuit to know our embodiment which has several layers from the annamaya, prāṇāmaya, manomaya, vijñānamaya and finally the ānandamaya. On the grosser plane, our embodiment is the body, mind and breath. We have to study how they interact, interplay and interface with each other. He then guides us practically in an āsana on how to have a profound interaction between the body, mind and breath so that we no longer DO yoga but yoga happens on us!

Namaskar. This is our second session in the series Education about Classical Yoga. There are two aspects as far as the students, seekers of yoga are concerned: one is there are very few people who are interested in yoga and there are many who are interested in knowing what is good for me in yoga. The majority of people today are interested in the second aspect in pursuing yoga, to identify, to get to know: what is good in yoga for me. But in the classical approach, this was not the case, because that is a consumerism. In Classical Yoga, what is Yoga? So, one was keen to know what is Yoga, that is the student’s channel. So, sooner or later all of us need to get into this track. Now, we are all familiar with the idea, the notion, the concept ‘yoga is for one and all’. No doubt, but that is a sweeping statement, not a precise statement. Precisely there is something in Yoga for everyone, this is the more precise statement rather than saying ‘yoga for one and all’.

So, people of different dispositions and inclinations will be there, however, there is something for them to be offered by the subject of Yoga. There can be materialistic people, spiritual people, these are polarities; those who are looking for physical wellbeing, mental wellbeing and there can be atheists, there can be theists so, you’ll have variety of people and Yoga has something to offer for each one of them.

And that’s why we look for what is good for me. That is, we don’t want to change ourselves on one hand, and just want to identify what is good for me. But in Classical approach, that is not the case. It is just doing Yoga for the sake of Yoga. Now, as I said, this is an educative process, we are trying to understand the educative process that was there in classical times. Education was about what is Yoga rather than today, what is good for me in yoga. Now, let us try to understand what is the Education here. What is Education all about when I say there is an educative process in Yoga. Education about what? It is Education about not yoga; it is not about getting educated in yoga. Yoga is education about oneself. Yoga, being Adhyātmic3 subject, is an education about oneself. We get to know ourselves by getting to know yoga. That is why yoga has been described as a mirror. It is a darśana, it is a mirror. So yoga is a mirror for understanding yourself.

Bhāgavadgītā in the 13th chapter says:

13.1 idam śarīram kaunteya

kṣetram iti abhidhiate

This śarīraṃ is kṣetram, field, it is called field. And we are supposed to be knower of the fields. See the unfortunate travesty because of materialism. We do not want to know ourselves we want to know everything that is around us. Another example I can give you is that we want to eat food and we want to digest the food, but we do not want to know how the digestion takes place. We want to be intelligent, but we do not know what is intelligence and how the intelligence functions. We all want to use our brains, but we do not want to know what our brain is.

Now, this is something that it not sound in logic. If you want to be using the brains, it implies, entails, that we should know a little bit about the brain. But in our busy activity of life we don’t need it. We don’t want to understand our bodies and our mind and our brain and just want to use our body, we want to use our mind, use our brains. But in the philosophical approach this is not done. That is why we are supposed to be knowers of the kṣetra. The śarīra is the field and we are supposed to be knowers of the field rather than in the practicality of life and business of life we want to use ourselves, we want to use our body, we want to use our mind, we want to use our brain, we want to use our intelligence and we are just bent upon using it.

3 Adhyātmic, Adi-atmic (adhi-aathmika). Pertaining to adi-Atma. Adi = first. Adi-atma (adhi-aathma). Pertaining to the individual soul, spirit, or manifestation of supreme Brahman.

6:40 This is a kind of animal tendency in us. If you want to overcome this animal tendency within us this must be realized: that this embodiment is meant to be known. We are supposed to be the knower of the embodiment particularly in the Adhyātmic realm, we are supposed to be knowing this. That is why you have this question: Who am I? In philosophy you are familiar with this question that you should be knowing who am I? Apart from other questions: what is all around me etc.. So, Yoga being an Adhyātmic subject, the śarīraṃ becomes kṣetra and we are kṣetrajña. Jña means to know, so we are the knowers of this field. We are supposed to be knowers of the field, if not during the business activity of life sometimes we must ponder over this, that we must become knowers of this kṣetra, this śarīraṃ. Again, when the word śarīraṃ comes, we are familiar with the connotation of the śarīraṃ means it is body. So it doesn’t mean it will be a cavil on the part of an inquisitive mind, saying I should know my body, I should know my anatomy physiology. That is not being suggested here. Śarīraṃ is not just anatomy. So, śarīraṃ is usually rendered as body and it is not suggested we should know our body like an anatomist does; in the medical realm, they try to know the body, but that it has not being suggested here. Because śarīraṃ means there are three śarīras, three bodies: gross, subtle, causal - sthūla śarīra (gross body) sūkṣma śarīra (subtle body) and karaṇa śarīra (causal body).

That is what śarīraṃ is when it is kṣetra and we are supposed to be knowing this, knowers of this at least. So Yoga makes you know about this śarīraṃ. It is a process to know our body starting with the gross. And the gross is our physical body and psychological mind. These are the gross aspects of our sthūla śarīra with which we take birth and then on the point of death we leave it behind. The sthūla śarīra is that which is only meant for one lifetime and every time it is redone, reconstructed, reconstituted for every life, of every incarnation. That is the gross body, behind the gross body there is a subtle body, astral body, what is also called astral body, which is a transmigrating body, it is there before the birth and it is there after the death as well. So there is something like that, which is called sūkṣma śarīra. And karaṇa śarīra, causal body.


10:11 So, Yoga is the pursuit to know these śarīras. So sūkṣma, sthūla, karaṇa the three bodies. Then there is annamaya, prāṇāmaya, manomaya, vijñānamaya, ānandamaya kośas which again is explained in the Science of Yoga. That’s how we are; our embodiment is of the nature of onion. Onion has a skin. You don’t eat onion with the skin, you peel the skin and then you eat onion. But that onion has several petals. So when you peel one petal, still it is onion, when you peel the second petal, layer or petal, again it is onion, when you peel the third, or fourth and fifth, and sixth layer of petal, yet it is onion: until it comes to stem. So, between the stem and over the stem, between the skin and stem there are several petals of onion. Similarly our embodiment is. We have several layers and we need to explore those layers.