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Season 1 - Episode 4

Yoga and Shiva

60 min - Talk


We use symbols to help us understand and discuss the things in life that defy description.  James discusses Shiva, the Lord of the Yogis, and His message that we must let go of our misperceptions of the world in order to understand who we really are. James relates the story of the emergence of Brahma from Vishnu, and the subsequent decapitation of Brahma’s 5th head, that of delusion and self-identity which is keeping Brahma stuck in limited perception. We also hear the story of 2 followers of Vishnu and Shiva, symbolizing that our external yoga technique is designed with the purpose of cultivating an internal awareness of the light of consciousness.
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Mar 15, 2021
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Om Venanam Dvaana Pataikam Amvamahi Kavi Ske Kathy Rama, Om Shaya vit mahi vakrata nayadeem mahi tan norendeff prachora yaati Om gami karanthaya vit mahi vakrata nayadeem mahi tan norendeff prachora yaati Om gami karanthaya vit mahi tan norendeff prachora yaati Om namaste astupagavan vishvishvara yaati mahi tan norendeff prachora yaati karanthaya karanthaya karanthaya karanthaya karanthaya nirakantaya mrityendaya sahvishvara yaasada shivaya shriman madhivaya namah Om shri gurupya namah Om namaste shivaya Namaskara. Hello. Welcome to Yoga Now on Yoga Anytime And today we're going to be speaking about yoga and shiva Now, yoga, like all the best things in life and all the best things in existence, is really hard to describe with words And yoga is a four-letter word And like many other four-letter words, through its somewhat, I would say, casual overuse The true depth and power of what it really signifies can sometimes be lost Yoga, ultimately, what does it mean? It means to be unified, to be in a state of oneness with everything Now, oneness with everything, what does that mean? How can I put that into words? As soon as I name something with a word, I limit it As soon as I ascribe a particular form to something, I limit it So the state of yoga is beyond name and form Yoga means being one with the ultimate reality, which is also beyond name and form But yoga is very, very practical The ultimate reality may be beyond name and form But here we are in this realm of nature and duality My name is James And for now, at least, I am identified with this bodily form And I experience forms around me And naming things helps me navigate the reality that I experience Yoga takes a very, I would say, daring position Because yoga recognizes that ultimately we exist in this field of oneness We are all part of this unified field of existence But yoga also recognizes the reality of duality The reality of nature Here we are as beings who were born We emerged from a womb in the case of a human being And we were born And so we are nature We are not separate from nature We are part of nature, that which is born And just like everything else that is part of nature, we will die And in between those two great changes of birth and death, we will experience constant change Just like everything else in nature, even the mountains Yes, their lifespan is very, very long compared to ours But still, the mountains emerge and they fade away over time But there's the idea that all of this that comes and goes Us, the mountains, the whole realm of existence Is existing in a consciousness that is infinite and everlasting And the idea in yoga is, if we work with the gifts of our human birth If we work with the reality of nature Here, now, in the middle of all this whirling wonder And change and variegation and beauty of existence Right here, right now, we can realize our deep essence That essential, everlasting nature Okay, that sounds rather grand, sounds quite nice Sometimes when people hear this idea of like, oh, yoga means becoming one with the ultimate reality One with everything, sometimes people think like, wow, that sounds fantastic, bring it on Other people think, wow, wait a minute, that sounds a little bit beyond my current reach or understanding But however it sounds for us, yoga invites us to approach being more unified, more joined up, more connected, more integrated in a very practical way So I mentioned all the best things in life They're very hard to describe with words But we can use words, we can use forms, we can use symbols To help us relate to those things that are so wonderful To help us approach and orient towards those very special things that do almost defy description Now, in the yoga method in the Indian system, one thing that people use is symbol And so today, I'm going to speak about one of the great symbols of yoga Or one of the great icons of yoga Shiver Now, this word icon, I think it's one of those four letter words that sometimes gets used rather casually But I'm using the word icon to signify something that reps something small Something we can identify, something we can observe That signifies for us something much, much vaster And so in the yogic system, there are lots of these icons Faces, we might say, of the ultimate reality that we can relate to When we're a human being, the face is very, very important That's one thing that I think, certainly for myself, sometimes when I go outside at the moment in the world In some places, people are being told that they have to or feeling that it's appropriate to cover some of their face And this changes the way we interact The face is a place where we can communicate so much We can relate to a face And so in the Indian system, the ultimate reality is sometimes given a face It's given a name and a form that we can relate to And one of the beautiful things in the Indian system is that the G word, God Which when I say God, I basically mean that which is beyond name and form That in which everything exists The mystery that holds together and weaves together the whole web of life and all this existence The ultimate reality, the supreme, the source, call it what you want But God is a word that sometimes people use and find useful to describe that which is hard to describe In the Indian system, God or the ultimate goes by many, many names Shiva is one of these names But Shiva has more than a thousand names Vishnu or Narayana, these are other names that also represent the ultimate reality Vishnu also has more than a thousand names So does Ganesha, so does Shakti, for example And these are all ways to represent that which is beyond representation So Ganesha, Gunna means a group or a member Isha, the Lord, the power, the energy that can bring together all those parts So one way we can understand Ganesha is that which includes all the different members of existence So it's a way of relating to this energy that is all inclusive Shiva, just like his beloved Shakti Shakti means the capacity of consciousness Amba, another name from other divine, means the womb of existence, the container in which we all exist The names Shiva, Vishnu and Narayana, they all have a meaning which means that which contains, in which everything exists But today we're going to speak particularly about Shiva And Shiva, one of his other many names, and we'll hear at least two or three others of them during the course of this evening's episode Or this morning's episode if you're depending where you are Is Yogeshwara, Shiva, Yogeshwara and Yogeshwara means the Lord of the Yorgins A Yorgin means one who is established in yoga So if we are practicing yoga, we are perhaps orienting towards the state of Yogihood or Yoginihood Here I am, I'm not a Yorgin, I'm a yoga practitioner I'm working with the principles of yoga to invite more and more yoga, more and more togetherness, more and more integration, more and more balance, more and more harmony In the reality of my day to day embodied experience Shiva as Yogeshwara, the Lord of Yorgins, bequeathed to humankind Lots and lots of very practical yoga teachings and techniques which have come down to us through the ages So he's regarded as the Lord of Yorgins, also because he is the master Yorgin Shiva's meditation is kind of the ultimate, he knows the ultimate medistate One of Shiva's names is Nataraja, the Lord of the Dance The dance of the creation, the maintenance, the destruction, the transformation, the whirling cycles of life And through all of this dynamism he is very, very balanced So as Nataraja we see him in this dancing, very dynamic form and he symbolizes there stillness, balance In the midst of all that incredible dynamism When we see him depicted as Yorgeshwara, the Lord of Yorgins He may be depicted sitting perhaps on a tiger skin wearing not much at all but perhaps he has an elephant hide wrapped around his middle Maybe he has some ash covering his otherwise naked skin The ash which symbolizes that which remains when everything else is taken away Because Shiva symbolizing consciousness represents that which remains That which underlies, which is the substrate of all the comings and goings, our conscious essence And as Yorgeshwara, there he is sitting on his tiger skin atop Mount Kailash in the Himalaya Perhaps he has a trident by his side, perhaps he has garlanded with the king cobra And he's there in a meditative asana The complete embodiment of sthira sukham asanam That seat of awareness that is at once steady and easeful And so there he symbolizes dynamism in stillness So he's very very still but he's able to be still in the midst of the bigger changing reality So those are two kind of anthropomorphized representations of Shiva as the Lord of the dance and the Lord of the meditating Yorgins But there is another iconic representation of Shiva that I'd like to focus on today And that is the icon or the sign or symbol of the linga So maybe you can say this word linga Now linga in Sanskrit means sign, symbol, mark, emblem But linga, and in Sanskrit grammar for example, linga denotes the gender of a word In Sanskrit we can have masculine, feminine and neuter words This is the linga of the word But linga also is used to refer to the male generative organ And interestingly, still sometimes in English today people talk about a man's manhood His linga, his phallus, his male generative organ being a symbol of his maleness It is a sign or a mark of his masculinity or his maleness It can be seen as a emblem of that you might say Now the linga is also a sign of Shiva Now sometimes people think of the linga as a phallic symbol But while this is true, the linga is a more versatile and much more all-inclusive sign Than just being the male generative organ And there's a beautiful story about this And the story goes that there was a master sculptor, absolute master of his craft And he is assigned a task His task, oh master sculptor, you've got a very important task Here on the earth, these human beings, they're going to have this amazing opportunity Because they're going to be endowed with self-reflexive awareness And they're going to have Mishra-karama They're going to experience ups, downs, pleasure and pain, gain and loss Joy and sorrow And because of this mixed experience, it's going to be altogether completely natural and normal In the course of a human life This human being now and again may get to thinking Wait a minute, what's it all about? There must be something more than all this coming and going And the human being may also have these moments when they are, as it were, struck motionless and brought fully into this moment By the majesty or the beauty or the challenge or horror of what they experience And in those moments, their experience will be so potent, so visceral That it will leave a residual impact which will make them question What was that? What is this richness that is underlying my experience? And because these human beings have this self-reflexive awareness Even though their minds and their intellects And their ordinary perceptual capacities Will only allow them to perceive a tiny portion of the vast reality of existence Even so, when they bring together their censored powers And they bring all the powers of their awareness into yoga, into togetherness, into cohesion They will be able to glimpse and then perhaps savor, relish And even become attuned to and eventually one with the underlying consciousness That is their very essence And these human beings will have the capacity to realise themselves And to realise the totality they are part of And the sculptor says, yes And then the person says to the sculptor, and you Your task is to design and sculpt a form, a shape, a symbol, an icon Which these human beings can use to help them relate to that which is beyond name and form But which is actually pulsating in their heart of hearts And is the essence of each of them and everything they experience Now this sculptor, he's a real master Being a real master, this sculptor is not worried, is not flustered by this great challenge A symbol for all of humanity That will stand the test of time, that will be perennial, that will be valid through the ages The sculptor, this is an interesting thing in the Indian system To recognise that any craft, any art, any science in the true sense of the word A means of exploring reality Any of these arts, crafts, sciences, fields of investigation and applied endeavour and skill They can be means to practise yoga And so the sculptor knows When one is not sure, no need to careen into activity from a place of doubt or uncertainty Let me rather hold steady, pause, stop, look Listen, listen, perhaps there will be a whisper, a stirring of inspiration Can I look in ways that reach beyond my habitual ways of looking Perhaps invite new recognitions to be perceived And so the sculptor pauses And as he's contemplating this assignment, he thinks, well, he has a piece of rock, he's been given this rock And maybe you've heard those stories of how some of the great artists, they're given the piece of marble, for example And they have just this block of marble, but for the great sculptor, they see the form within that rock So I don't know if, like, is it in the square in Florence, in Italy there is Michelangelo's David It was a big slab of marble, but Michelangelo could see this form within the rock So here's this master sculptor, and he's got this just pillar of rock in front of him And he's contemplating, and he thinks, well, a tree, a tree is a great symbol of life It roots into the earth, it climbs towards the sky It knows how to work with all the elements of existence, it knows how to dance with the seasons And then he thinks, yes, but if I carve a tree or any other plant, then it's kind of like excluding the animals And the creepy crawlies and the humans And come to think of it, if I shape the rock in some animalistic form, it's kind of excluding the plant life And if I carve a man, it's leaving out the women And if I carve a woman, it's maybe leaving out the men and the people in between And maybe I carve a whole big landscape But even if I carve a whole big landscape, it's still going to leave out so much Because look at this reality, it's so full of diversity and variegated wonder No, no, no, our landscape won't do either And so the sculptor thinks, what could it be? And then the sculptor realises that he's found the appropriate way forwards He has with him the tools of his craft, they're by his side And he looks down at the tools of his craft, his sculpting instruments And he just leaves them there He looks at the rock, the unhewn pillar of rock in front of him And he thinks, no, this, this is the sign The uncarved rock, the simple piece of rock that emerges from the earth This is the linga What a genius this sculptor was What a true master He did not need to prove his mastery by showing off his virtuosity Rather, he knew he could just leave it And so he created or he instantiated the symbol that reminds us That basically anything that emerges out of the ground is a linga Is a symbol of the ultimate reality And so this symbol, at its root, at its basis, tells us very clearly There is nowhere God is not There is nothing that is outside this divinity Everywhere you look, everywhere we look, there is consciousness If it wasn't existing in consciousness, how might it exist at all?

And so the sculptor left the rock as it was And then the great being who had assigned him this task said, nice work But the sculptor had done such a great job that people asked him to then codify ways that people could replicate this And so went on to be set down principles for the carving of lingas That could be used by people in temples, for example The linga and the yoni, which again symbolizes the balance, the male and the female The giving and the receiving, the witnessing and the active All of these different principles included in this form of the linga Now the linga, yes, we can go to a temple and we can see the ornately or very finely precisely carved form of a classical linga But the linga also exists in nature, like we mentioned Anything that emerges out of the earth can be considered a linga There is another story that tells us about the origins of the linga And this story involves Brahma and Vishnu, or Narayana, and Shiva And this story relates to the first verse of a beautiful hymn that's called the lingashtakam, the eight verses on the linga So I'm going to sing just the first verse, which begins Brahma Murari Surar Chitalingam So I think you'll see the words on the screen in just a moment So Brahma Murari Surar Chitalingam So Brahma Murari Surar Chitalingam So Brahma Murari Surar Chitalingam So Tat Pranamami Surar Chitalingam So that linga, that sign of the always auspicious consciousness that contains everything to that pranamami I offer myself So this is the idea of the linga as a sign, a symbol, an icon, a form that we can orient towards, that can help encourage or invite the mindset That's going to help us cultivate yoga in the reality of our life as we go about it And this first verse is very very beautiful So Brahma Murari Surar Chitalingam, which means the linga that is archita, that is worshipped, that is shown reverence and veneration By the suras, which means the light beings, the gods, the illumined ones And by Brahma, so this means Brahma in the sense of the creator god And Murari, and Murari is a name for Vishnu So maybe you've heard of this idea in the Indian system of the trinity of Brahma, the creator, Vishnu, the preserver And Shiva, the destroyer, or the one who transforms or facilitates the destruction to allow a new recreation to emerge Brahmaan is a word for totality, without form, the ultimate reality But Brahma means the creator, the creator god So it's interesting that the very first word of the song, it connotes Brahmaan, totality But in this instance it's also denoting Brahma, the creator god And this story is about, it begins with Brahma having created the existence So the urge that Brahma was basically deputed this task, he was given this task And Lord Narayana, Vishnu, that in which all the waters of existence are held, that which contains everything Lord Narayana, also known as Lord Vishnu, is there, reclined on the waters of the primordial soup or the primordial ocean And has the inclination, now it's time to bring into being a whole new cycle of existence And so from Vishnu's navel emerges a lotus stalk And on the flower, the petals of this lotus, as it opens, emerges Brahma The verb root means to expand, so Brahma has this task of creating, expanding the existence So Brahma goes about this creation task And Brahma, he creates here, he creates there, the world is expanded And then Brahma has done his business of creating up to a certain point And he feels, hmm, that's quite nice handiwork And he thinks, yeah, let me look at all of this amazing stuff I've created So he goes and has a wander around, he looks this direction, that direction, this direction, that direction He looks all around in the four directions And he feels very pleased with himself He looks up dreamily and then he looks down and he thinks, oh, I've never really looked down there before And he explores behind the petal of the lotus that he actually emerged from I wonder what's down here And so Brahma explores and then this stalk of the lotus is connected to Vishnu's navel So Brahma, he doesn't really notice that, he just notices this rather majestic figure that is Vishnu And Brahma, you know, he's rather full of himself because he's just created the whole of the existence And he sees this rather majestic being who he didn't create, so he thinks, whoa He says, who are you? And Vishnu says, ah, my child And Brahma doesn't take kindly to being designated that way He says, who? Who are you calling child? I am the god of all of the creation, who are you? And Vishnu kind of laughs indulgently like a grandfather to a young grandchild He says, ah, my child, no, no, no He says, who are you laughing at? I am the creator And Vishnu says, hold on, slow down son, wait a minute Where do you think you came from?

Brahma doesn't want to hear this And he says, who are you? I'm god, so who do you think you are? And Vishnu is kind of still, he's chuckling and he's thinking, you think you're god But you don't know who I am You might not rather disprove the idea that you are god if there is something that you can't know or fathom But Brahma, he's still so puffed up with the arrogance of his own creative capacities That it's almost like he's not able to register this new perspective He says, no, no, no, I'm god, but who are you? What are you doing in my creation? And Vishnu says, look, you don't know who I am You're not god, okay Yes, I am He says, no, no, you're not And anyway, things escalate and they're having a little bit of a dispute And Brahma keeps saying, I'm god Vishnu is becoming more exasperated with his child, basically, blanketness It's becoming more and more irate, they're having this argument And then for the umpteenth time, Brahma says, I'm god At which point, suddenly emerges this vast, vast, vast pillar of light A stumba, a pillar of glorious effulgence And this registers with Brahma because he's never seen this before And he realizes, well, I didn't create this So he's been going on, oh, I'm the creator But now he is experiencing something that he can actually recognize Even in his arrogant, blanket outlook that he did not create And he looks up, and it looks infinite And he looks down, it looks infinite And it's so bright, and it's so just this gorgeous effulgence to it And it seems to have a kind of fragrant quality as well And Vishnu sees that, ah, this has kind of pacified the arrogance and the blanketness of Brahma And so he says, so, what do you make of this then? And Brahma is saying, hmm, yeah, well, I don't know where this is coming from And if you have any idea, and Vishnu says, no, I don't know where it begins and where it ends Shall we investigate?

And Brahma thinks, let's do that So Brahma, he calls one of, he has a vehicle, a swan He calls his swan, and up he flies And Vishnu calls the boar, and he boars down, down, down And down, down, down goes Vishnu Down the pillar of light, down the pillar of light Light, light, light, on and on it goes And Brahma goes up, up, up, it's light, light, light Doesn't seem to be any end of it But as Brahma goes up, it's more and more fragrant And he encounters these petals of a certain type of fragrant flower And he's like, wow, Vishnu meanwhile is going down, down, down And he doesn't see any sign of any end And Vishnu thinks, well, it seems to be infinite to me But I wonder how young Brahma got on Maybe I'll go back the other direction, see if I can find him See if he found any end to this Brahma feeling, I can't find the end But he also turns back to see if Vishnu found anything And they meet each other And Vishnu says, well, something else, I think we've found infinity And Brahma says, oh no, I found the end Then at the top there were these beautiful flagrant flowers At which point From the pillar of light emerges another being And he is in the form of an ascetic He's rather youthful, he's not wearing a lot And the first thing he says, Brahma has just said, I got to the top and there were these fragrant flowers And this figure that has emerged says, you lie And then he proceeds with a trident To chop off the fifth of the heads that Brahma had So I mentioned before, when he was surveying his creation He looked in the four directions He wanted to know it all He wanted to classify it all And compartmentalize it all And bring it within the realm of his conscious Or his, let's say, quantified understanding And that fifth head, if you remember, after he created all of this He was looking up dreamily And so this fifth head symbolizes That has just been chopped off by this young ascetic Who is Shiva? So Shiva has emerged from this endless linger Of effulgent light And when Brahma was lying Shiva emerges, chops off his fifth head And this fifth head, we can understand it in different ways But one way we can understand it This was that dreamy head that was looking up It was caught in cloud cuckoo land Where Brahma, the creator, was living within the miasma Of the misperception, the misapprehension That I am the lord and master of creation A misperception, a misapprehension, a miasma That more than one human being has fallen under the spell of down the ages And perhaps we don't have to look out too far into the world today Or even into the realm of our own life to realize It's easy for us and other human beings to fall into this miasmic state Where we get carried away with our creative capacities And we think that our limited human intelligence and human mind Can grasp the infinite wonder of the vaster reality of the universe That we are just a small part of And Shiva, Shiva, which means always auspicious He chops off Brahma's fifth deluded head And this means that Shiva takes the name Kapalika So sometimes you see Shiva represented iconographically And he has in one of his hands a skull And this skull is the previously fifth head of Brahma The skull of deluded Ahankara in the Sanskrit So Ahankara means eye Ahankara, the eye maker So sometimes people render this word with the English equivalent ego But Ahankara and ego are not exact equivalents There are many things about Ahankara that go beyond the reach of the English term ego However, it's that part of our awareness that gives us this sense of I, me and mine And can sometimes give us a deluded, limiting or distorted perspective of who I am What is really me and what is really mine So we have in this story Brahma, who despite the evidence Thinks he is the Lord and Master of the creation When he went on that journey down the Lotus Torque He encountered things that he had played no part in creating And yet he was still caught up in this deluded miasma I am the creator Anyway, Shiva has emerged from the pillar of light, chopped off his head Said, you lie, and because of this lie You shall not be worshipped in the time that is to come However, you Vishnu And he turns to Vishnu and says, you You are humble in the beautiful sense of the word In the sense that you are truly honest You are able to own and accept your limitations You are curious You are not intimidated by uncertainty You are not afraid of not knowing You are not afraid of admitting or acknowledging your ignorance And so you will be worshipped in the time to come Because you demonstrate the path to wholeness The path that requires real humility, real honesty That the path of yoga asks us to acknowledge our limitations To make space for new insights And so Shiva says to Vishnu, you like me will be worshipped As a means to help human beings orient towards the recognition of their true essence Just as the linga will be a great icon, a great symbol, a great form That can help human beings on this path of yoga So will you, Lord Vishnu, in your different forms and avatars and symbols So many beautiful instructive things in this story But one, very clear, thinking I am the big I am, not a good policy And this is one of also the reasons I don't like this term That sometimes people say, fake it until you make it Now it might just be a semantic thing But I don't think it's a good idea to practice any type of fakery Because yoga recognises we get good at what we practice What does the story tell us? Honesty is the best policy Owning our reality is the best That's where we can grow from So it might just be a semantic thing But rather than fake it until we make it, rather how about practising what we aspire to In the play Hamlet, Hamlet tells his mother, assume a virtue if you have it not But don't fake it, actually be that virtue, practise it, embody it So another way we could think about this Like when children play Sometimes, I don't know if this is the case in American English But in British English, sometimes children play make-believe And they play roles So maybe you're a child and you're playing at being a pirate Or you're playing at being shiver Or you're playing at being a goddess, whatever it might be But make-believe, don't pretend So this is a lovely thing that last year I was on a course And I met this beautiful teacher who works a lot with kids And he was reminding us, when you work with younger children Their imagination is still so much more powerful than the adult imagination tends to be So when they make-believe, they can really get into that feeling So be like Vishnu in this story He's not bothered by not knowing He stays open and curious Just like an innocent child Maybe the innocent child doesn't know all that it means to be a pirate But when he or she plays at being a pirate They do it without inhibition They do it wholeheartedly They do it honestly, if that makes sense So another thing this story I think encodes is can we let go of our false identities Can we let go of these deluded miasmas Be like shiver, be like Vishnu So, the linga It's this all-inclusive form Doesn't leave anything out And Vishnu has that courage to face that calmly Brahma wants to control it, wants to dominate it, wants to get to the ends, wants to quantify it And what does pure consciousness say to that? Chop that head off That attitude, that greedy attitude that wants to possess, that wants to quantify, that wants to measure everything That will only limit you Hubris brings nemesis Look down the ages, it always happens When a human being gets this sense of I am the Lord and Master of the creation, it doesn't end well May we learn well from this lesson Talking more about shiver and Vishnu then as these great icons of yoga Speaking in very broad brush strokes There is the idea in the Indian system that shiver and Vishnu represent slightly different approaches to ultimate reality Vishnu often wears a crown He is associated with royalty, majesty Shiver is an ascetic, he is a mountain man Never mind a crown, he has the crescent moon on his head and he has marganga But he doesn't even bother with clothes most of the time So shivers the mountain man, the wild man and Vishnu symbolises culture, refinement Now speaking very very generally with broad brush strokes Sometimes people say, Vaishnavites, those who use Vishnu or Narayana As the representation of that which is beyond representation Tend to focus a little bit more on the external practices and techniques The rites and the rituals Whereas the Shaivites who see shiver as the representation of the ultimate Tend to focus a little bit more on the internal practices This is just very very broad brush stroke speaking and of course there are many exceptions But there is a story And the story goes that there was a very pious Vaishnava Which means this is a man And this man considers Lord Vishnu as the ultimate representation of ultimate reality And this is a very pious man And he likes to perform all of the rituals just so He likes to wear two pieces of virgin uncut cloth in pure natural fibres And he likes to make sure he has the Ganga water to bless his puja That he has the perfect fruits to offer He has all the right offerings, he knows all the correct Sanskrit pronunciation And when he does his rituals he does it just so And it comes to a certain moment in the year When according to the rites and rituals that are part of this man's lineage let's say It's time to go to a specific place to perform a specific ritual So there he is walking in his two pieces of perfect uncut virgin cloth pristine cloth And he's walking through the forest And he comes to a stream And when he comes to a stream he's going to pause and take a little moment to refresh himself And give thanks to the water He goes around a bend in the stream And then he sees something which horrifies him What does he see? He sees a naked man, naked Reclined, I don't know if I can really demonstrate this on the camera but just to give you an idea He's kind of reclined Much more stretched out than I am, lying on his back But at his feet There is, I'm going to just go off camera for one moment to grab something There is, this is representing the linga There is a linga, a shiva linga at his feet And in the Indian way of looking at the microcosm of the body The head is kind of the highest and the feet the lowest So in India it's very rude to point your feet and the soles of your feet at somebody Now the linga is a symbol of the holiest of holies And this naked man is pointing his feet at the linga And the Vaishnava who sees this is absolutely horrified He's so horrified he can barely speak for a few moments But then he's kind of looking down on this man and he says What are you doing? And the man who is reclining in the dappled sunlight by the side of the water He says, well I was enjoying the gentle dappled sunlight through the leaves Until you came and stood in the way but would you mind moving? And then the Vaishnava who's standing above him is like saying But look where you've got your foot And so the man who's reclined is like, yes And he's like, but but but but of every place to put your foot Why are you pointing your foot at the linga?

And the man who is on the ground who happens to be a Shaivite A devotee of Lord Shiva says Well where would you like me to put my feet? He's got them pointing at the linga And the Vaishnava says, well anywhere, anywhere but there And so what the man on the ground is he says Well where shall I put them? Shall I put them over here for example? And then what happens? At that place pops up a linga And then this little dance goes on The naked man he moves his feet and everywhere he moves his feet A new linga pops up And then he turns to the Vaishnava who is still kind of towering above him and he says Well where do you want me to put them then? Now the Vaishnava He's a very pious devout man And it turns out that all his years of devoted regular practice have had the desired effect And they've had a deep impact Because what is the point of external practice?

What is the point of doing Surya Namaskara with the physical body? If not to cultivate the attitude of internal Namaskara Internal orienting towards the vaster light of consciousness symbolized by the sun And as we do that with the body of course we get all these other physical and physiological benefits Which also help make us more receptive to be infused And our vision to be expanded by the influence of that light of consciousness But anyway the Vaishnava He's not a stupid man All those years of devotion have paid off And so what he does to the naked man he says I think you better put your feet on my head And so he bows down and asks the man to bless him And the idea is that this is an emanation of Lord Shiva And the Vaishnava He's been a very devout But he had the depth of presence and honesty To remember that the external technique is not for its own sake It is for the sake of cultivating the internal attitude And so the idea of the story is Sometimes people say So you want to be a Vaishnava on the outside and a Shaivite on the inside Meaning the external performance only counts If it's coming from that place of honest, authentic intent Lord Shiva Notice in these two stories His devotee in the last story was a naked man The ascetic who emerged from the pillar of light He spoke with tremendous authority But he was a simple man Shiva does not care for your fancy car You could get yourself a Rolls Royce with Shiva insignia inscribed on the side He's not going to impress Shiva Shiva cares what is in your heart And so this is the idea of the story The external practices The external procedures The rites The rituals There's the idea Why are we doing them? There's the idea that when we do them Skillfully Honestly They start training us In the ways of whole system integration So the linga Remember we said at the beginning it is an inclusive icon It's an inclusive symbol It leaves nothing out Yoga is about unification, inclusion, gathering Bringing all the parts into dynamic equilibrium So they can dance together If we are to do this Then we have to have that openness We have to have that inclusivity So when we are practicing There's the idea that these techniques Whether it, for example, I mentioned Surya Namaskara Such a beautiful practice You can do Surya Namaskara in thousands and thousands of ways You can do it without moving at all But if we do a moving practice Of moving dynamically through these physical gestures That salute the sun And invite that energy And that light, that spaciousness To infuse ourselves And invite energy to flow through us To the degree that our spinal cord Gunga, the mighty river That flows through the Himalaya The mountain range of our spinal column So that energy can flow freely through that central channel And infuse the whole of our being with that dynamic presence Then we can invite that awareness to seep through Not just into the way that we move our body When we're doing a yoga exercise on a mat But how we move in life How we relate to ourselves How we relate to others How we relate to Mother Earth How we relate to everything in our experience And so, in yoga There's no exclusivity We can't leave anything out We have to keep inviting all of ourselves Into the present moment Without inhibition And we have to have the courage And the honesty to recognize that it's altogether Quite likely that as human beings We may have become identified With limiting ideas We may have created false ceilings of perspective We may have blinkered ourself And so Shiva, in many stories You see Shiva in the chopping ahead of business He's known as the destroyer Can we muster the courage To voluntarily sever our own head In the sense, not commit suicide But rather, let go of those limiting ideas Invite ourselves into a vaster, more inclusive perspective One that can actually invite a truer, fuller, vaster recognition Of who we really are And what we're really made of On the Mashivaya


Elizabeth M
Hi, everyone! Before our live broadcast of this class began, James chanted the "lingastakam" mantra, and we thought you might like to hear it! Click here for a recording of James singing the full mantra - Enjoy! 🙏 
Caroline S
2 people like this.
Can I perform just one Sun Salutation with all parts of my being connected and attuned?  With reverence, humility and a glad heart?  Really salute the Sun?  And can i do that all day long?  Performance for the sake of inner attitude?  That's the invitation and the challenge..thank you so much James for the thought provoking talk
Kate M
2 people like this.
James, this dharma talk fell into my world at the most opportune moment! So beautiful and inspiring. So much gratitude!!
Chanda Hinman
I may have to listen to this 2, 3, or 4 more times, but I am really enjoying this show. James, you're an incredible storyteller!

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