"O Śhiva, what is your Reality?"
In the following blog, I endeavor to summarise the teachings I have shared with our 200-hour Yoga Teacher Trainees over the past 10 months. Instead of my usual tendency to go on at length, I have made an effort to condense 10 Sunday morning philosophy sessions into 700 words.
The glorious Parvati sits lovingly on her husband Shiva's lap, embracing him in a moment of love. A love so pure, it consumes her entirely. Lost in his presence, she gazes into his eyes and feels herself falling into an infinite realm of ecstasy. It’s as if she is on the verge of transcending life itself. In this moment, Devi, as she is often called, poses a question to her husband Shiva, the original yogi. It's a question that arises from her insatiable curiosity, a desire to understand him and life on a deeper level. Devi knows her husband as Shiva, but what lies beyond? What is Shi-Va, “that which is not?”
As they continue to embrace, Devi transcends the individual and embraces the cosmic expanse that exists beyond the confines of space and time. This experience teeters between fear and ecstasy, leaving Parvati completely enchanted. It seems to her that this experience is where Shiva resides — a manifestation of his essence rather than a physical abode. It feels like Shiva himself. The man and the cosmos intertwine, inseparable and unified.
Looking adoringly into his eyes, Devi poses the question that lingers in her heart, "Oh Shiva, what is your reality?"
Now, imagine for a moment that YOU are in Shiva's presence, the first yogi. And somehow you muster up the courage to ask the same question based on your curiosity of life and the meaning of existence: "Oh, Shiva, what is your reality?"
How do you think Shiva would respond? Hypothetically, of course.
Well, Shiva, being the enigmatic character he is, would probably counter with a question of his own: "What is YOUR reality?"
Cue the deep philosophical contemplation.
What is your personal reality? If you're like me, you might scratch your head and say, "I have no idea!" And yet, in our perplexity, we still think we're ready to comprehend the profoundness of a Shiva or a Buddha. Even a Patanjali.
We are asking Shiva about his reality when we're utterly clueless about our own. Shiva, in his infinite wisdom, would likely retort, "I know who I am; who are you?" Ah, the classic self-identity crisis.
But maybe Shiva's question, thrown back at us, plants a seed of self-discovery, and we find the courage to explore our own reality. At this point of philosophical questioning, Patanjali would say, "Now, the discipline of yoga."
Now the disciplined journey begins.
So Patanjali’s sutras and the opening line of “Now, the discipline of Yoga” only makes sense and talks to us when we have taken the first steps towards self-discovery. Through this disciplined commitment to yoga (yoga being defined here as the process of self-discovery), we start to unravel the layers of ourselves. We delve into the depths of our being and gain insights into our true nature. And what do we find? Well, we realise that we're nothing but a composition of dust—carbon, oxygen, and nitrogen. Quite the humbling realisation.
In the grand scheme of things, we're just stardust, destined to return to the source from which we originated. It is by deeply comprehending the fragile nature of life and our insignificance within the vast and incomprehensible universe that we start grasping the purpose of life itself.
Now, let's take a step back and reconsider this whole conversation with Shiva once we have committed to a lifetime of introspection and self-discovery. But hold on - Shiva and Parvati might just be symbolic representations of our own consciousness. That means the conversation is happening right in our minds. We ask ourselves that same question we posed to Shiva at the beginning: "What is our reality?" And thanks to our journey of 1) physical well-being, 2) authenticity, 3) self-discovery and a newfound understanding of life, we come to a startling realisation—the answer is life itself. Life is our reality.
So, my fellow yoga philosophy adventurers, let's dive into the depths of self-discovery and embrace the reality of life. It's an exhausting but massively rewarding journey that starts with a simple question and leads to a mind-boggling revelation. Life, as it turns out, is the ultimate reality. The same reality that yoga philosophers have harped on about for so long. All in my opinion of course.
Zahir Akram - eternal seeker
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