I arrived a couple of weeks back from a 10 week long tour across 8 countries sharing the beautiful science of Yoga. The more I travel and meet people the more I realize how similar we are deep within, even though we may be poles apart superficially on variables of color, language, culture etc.
All spiritual sciences talk of “One-ness”. This one-ness is not just a derivative of spiritual enlightenment but also that of an open mind and a loving heart.
If we look at the Great Indian Epic of Mahabharata, in the very opening verse of Bhagvad Gita, we find the “blind” king Dhritarashtra who was the patriarch of Kuru clan asking a question to his wise companion and the “viewer” of the War about what the people of His Own Party and those of Pandu were doing.
In this first verse itself the philosophy of life of a man of the world is summed up. There is a deep rooted notion that only a close group of those who share “my” view, “my” values, and support me in my good or evil undertakings are “mine” and the rest, however great, honest or justified in their stance are to be classified as “not mine” or “others”.
This, I think is the biggest Mistake of spiritual progress. If your spiritual pursuit is making the gap between “us” and “them” wider then there’s something fundamentally wrong in your view of spirituality. If your spiritual practice is creating “perceptions” and judging people based on them then Stop Now ! and check.
Looking at the above situation from The Mahabharata this “us” and “them” attitude and false perceptions between the cousins lead to slaughter of millions of brave hearts in the bloodiest battle of that time. But what else can be expected from a physically blind Dhritarashtra who’s kingdom was run by an equally “blind” son Duryodhana blinded by his Ego and desires. His basis of life lacked the right knowledge or even for that matter acceptance of the fact that our own ignorance creates confusion and sense of separateness. Thousands of years after Mahabharata we can still see a little bit of “Duryodhana” in us. The human mind wrapped in the web of perceptions about others and our own selves.
It has happened to me many times, I have been turned back from many places just because I did not fit in their image of a Yoga teacher. Either I was not “old” enough to teach yoga, or didn’t have a white beard or wore jeans or didn’t wear orange clothes, the superficiality was more important to them than the depth or may be that’s how their mind was, totally conditioned not ready to open. This, in classical Yogic terms is called “avidya” or Ignorance. Ignorance is defined as not seeing things for what they really are, and this ignorance is said to be the root cause of all other obstacles. This is not just about not seeing the others for what they really are but also not seeing yourself for what you really are. This is False perception ( according to Yoga sutra) about others and your self too. This is how unknowingly our mind is caged; it gets bound in boxes of perceptions and ideas because only thru this the Ego can dominate it. An open mind which is free of judgments and prejudice under the influence of sharp intellect is sure to reduce the dominance of Ego. The Ego hates this and it spins these perceptions based on memory or public notion and tries its best to keep the mind under its control. Only a person of open mind who sees others for what they truly are and not for what they do or wear or eat can understand the Unity in all and this Unity is nothing but Yoga.
Through this clarity of vision the Masters and Saints of Yore could achieve what they could; they lived exemplary lives and keep inspiring us for millenniums. Jesus didn’t hesitate curing the child of the General whose army was trying to catch him; Buddha didn’t fail to forgive his own cousin who tried to kill him. They could do this because they saw people who came to them for what they really were, just another mind trapped in bondages of perceptions. The Saints experience their True Reality and guide us to clean our mind and help us to experience our True nature. Just as Patanjali in his Yoga sutra says “after the mind is cleaned only then the observer rests in his True Nature”.
The basis of the science of Yoga as mentioned in the Yoga sutras is to “clean” the mind of these very perceptions, judgments and attitudes and by a step by step, disciplined practice generate a true vision of the equanimity inside everyone. Mind is a fantastic tool of self-evolution which shines in the Light of the Soul, every time we judge some one based on our experience with them, or hearsay or just because they do not “fit” with our Idea of things we cloud the mind restricting the Light from enlightening our whole Being. Such a “Limited” mind will be always pulled down by the weight of its “ideas” in turn limiting the spiritual progress.
The process of Yoga is nothing but a systematic and disciplined practice of cleansing the body-mind complex. The asana and pranayama help us clean the physical and astral body, mantra chanting and japa help us keep the mind occupied with positive thoughts, self less service ( karma yoga )makes us realize how we all are sailing in the same boat of sorrow and mire and to open the heart to compassion, Bhakti Yoga helps us offer surrender to the Higher Ideal which helps to control the ego and meditations which give us “super spiritual” glimpses of deep concentration ( Samadhi ) which assures us of our spiritual progress.
Every time you judge someone look at it as trapping your mind in chains, if you care you will refrain from doing so in due course of time. For a spiritual practitioner caging the mind in ideas and notions is the biggest stumbling block. It is very important to keep the mind clean for when the mind is clean the Heart opens. A true spiritual growth makes the mind grow wider and heart grow fonder
Every time you “label” some one ask yourself
“Do I really know this person to pass such judgments?”
“Who am I to pass such judgments, am I seeing this person in an independent light”?
Judge not, said Jesus, keep the mind clean and give the other person the respect and freedom they deserve as individuals. Reminds me of a beautiful saying by one Indian saint, who says “if your mind is not clean no amount of rubbing soap on your body will clean you”. Spiritual discipline is work of many lifetimes, once we bring in this detached and non-judgmental attitude in the purview of our mind we rejoice in independent happiness shinning from within. I leave you to decide what to do with a beautiful quote from Michelangelo which sums up the whole write up beautifully…
“I saw the angel in the marble and carved until I set him free.”