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Alex: Tracing the Source

We are all students of life and Yoga puts us in contact with who we truly are - beyond our wildest imagination, expectations and fears - and hopefully instils an integration of something that is uncluttered by our conditioning, something that is real at all times. But we live in a world of ups and downs, time and space, name and form so any definition we give to Yoga will naturally be coloured by our environment, exposure and context. I feel grateful to Pure Yoga for the invitation to join their Teaching Faculty. But I'm first and foremost a student of Yoga who lives nine months of the year in Mysore, India where I study Sanskrit and Yoga, and where the legendary T. Krisnamacharya began to teach Pattabhi Jois, BKS Iyengar, Indra Devi etc.

All of these blogs may be personal reflections, wild ramblings and fancy, but they will also give an account of interviews with other Yoga teachers, as well as common practitioners and seekers of Yoga. Yoga displays a great diversity all over the world, but hopefully in our shared efforts to articulate it, maybe we can all become a little wiser to what the great heritage of Yoga truly has to offer us?

For Alex's bio, please click here

02.07.08 Hong Kong Awakening...What?
Tomorrow the greatest Yoga Conference in Asia is opening for it's 2nd year. Evolution was a great success last year with a few thousand participants and this year and equal number of people is expected with a faculty of close to forty people. The theme for this year is "Awakening Consciousness" and let it be know from the beginning that the problem of Consciousness has baffled the minds of scientists and philosophers alike for the last centuries so let us not be too ambitious thinking that we will be able to solve any great mysteries here. It is rather an event to celebrate the great diversity of Yoga. So all honor to the organizers that has struggled and toiled over the last year to make all of this happen. Let's hope it becomes the great celebration of yoga it was intended to. If our consciousness will awaken a little in the process as well, great indeed will be our benediction.

To be conscious is defined as being aware and respond to ones surroundings. The more conscious a person is, the more switched on he/she is so to speak hopefully the more awaken and alert one will be to all the operations of the mind. As we all know, the mind can be quite an unruly machine and we may ask the question "Is the mind controlling us or are we controlled by the operations of the mind?" We are all the sum total of our previous experiences and impressions and whenever we try to define Pure Consciousness we will naturally first have to resolve much of our own conditioning to become clear on the matter.

Modern science seeks to explain natural phenomenon and involves the intellectual and practical activity encompassing the systematic study of the structure and behavior of the physical and natural world through observation and experiment. In short it tries to be as clear and precise about that which we can see and verify, but the purity of consciousness does not necessarily lend itself to observation, but is rather quantifiable and measurable through that which it operates. When science therefore tries to explain the phenomenon of consciousness they have to verify it through the operations of the mind and then measure the activity within the smallest measurable particles of the mind. The Scientific view of Consciousness is thus normally explained as an emergent property of complex activities in the neural networks of the brain that appears as a whole, i.e. an inner being experiencing the operations of the body and mind and thinks itself to be in control over it. For most scientists it's a purely physical phenomenon and the three classical views of modern science related to consciousness are that:

1. Patterns of neural network activity correlate with mental states.
2. Synchronous network fluctuations in the thalamus and cerebral cortex temporarily bind information.
3. Consciousness emerges as a novel property of computational (computer like) complexity among neurons.

However they fail to explain:

• The nature of subjective experience, "The inner life".
• Binding spatially diverse information and activities into unitary vision.
• Transition from pre-consciousness - consciousness - meditated consciousness.
• The non-compatibility of it, because in involves an immeasurable factor that is neither random, nor algorithmic and that cannot be externally stimulated. It is either there or not there.
• States of clear consciousness within people who have proven to be clinically dead.
• Free will and the experience of subjective time flow.

Modern physics has further been able to explain everything that we can see and measure. They have explained the beginning, end and what drives the very universe, but still they fail to explain thoroughly why we are conscious beings and what is the nature of thinking. For most scientists "thinking" is a physical phenomenon that is equally to be observed and measured, but the problem of why consciousness exists or how it originated remains still a mystery.

We may ask when in the course of evolution did Consciousness appear? Are living beings conscious by nature or did it emerge more recently with tool-making, language etc. Or did consciousness appear somewhere in between?

These questions are impossible to answer but the schools of Saṅkhya and Yoga verified Consciousness to be something different to the fabrications of the mind and rather the very essence that illuminates it. On a fundamental level they divided the Universe into two primal building blocks of Puruṣa and Prakṛti (Spirit and Matter), Consciousness and the very container in which consciousness is being reflected. They operate together in unison, but where as the earlier is constant the later is constantly changing. The goal of the school was to identify the indestructible principle of the universe and this they defined to be Puruṣa, spirit.

A fundamental problem of both Saṇkya and Yoga is that they do not give any clear explanation or account of the origin of the universe, but merely states that the symbiosis of souls and matter is of eternal existence and will continue to exist within the eternal cycle of creation and destruction of the universe. The escape root from this eternal cycle of creation however is when a conscious individual no longer is bound by patterns of creation, but eventually comes to realize their true nature of Spirit, which is of a different substance than the various manifestations and fluctuations of matter.

Yoga is the practical tool to distinguish this fundamental dualism of matter and spirit. It may be portrayed in a number of ways but the underlying goal should always be to reach the oneness of being, the unification of spirit. When we reach that we may experience that pure consciousness is something far greater then what we are able to define with our limited mind. So if we are a little confused on the matter that is completely ok, but as we awaken and hopefully create some more space to a more genuine state of being rather than projected conditioning, great will be our wonder and great will be our experience.

Whether the conference will be able to deliver this you have to go and figure out, but you can be certain that you will receive great teachings from various teachers around the world that are in great demand for their various interpretations of yoga. May it be a grand celebration and may we all awaken a little more to a genuine state consciousness in the process.

Or maybe we want? It is certainly a complex matter. Regardless this is what Derek Partif has to say, a British philosopher who specializes in personal identity, rationality and ethics, and the very relationship between them:

We are not what we think ourselves to be. Actions and experiences are interconnected but ownerless, there is no core, no self, no creator or dream weaver, this mystery of consciousness is simply unexplainable.

The complexity of thought is indeed a mindboggling matter. But for students of yoga it is all about the practical experience and the awakening to our inmost nature. Whether we succeed or not will probably take a long time to determine, but with what quality we live our very lives may be a good indicator of it. If it awakens an inert state of joy and harmony for no apparent reason, you can be certain that you tracing something profoundly beautiful.
Link Comments (3) diggdigg


I went to a pranayama class tonight and the yoga teacher mention yoga is actually a Science of Death. This is a new concept to me but i like the idea a lot. I am practicing yoga, in order to leave this physical body peacefully, someday. What do you think?

Posted by: a beginning level yoga student | 2008-07-09 21:39:47

Well i guess when death finally comes and takes us all we'll know the true meaning of all our yoga. But in preparation for that last breath, Yoga may equally be a way to embrace life for fully and look beyond all the appearances and discover a different support in a field that is more real, potent and vibrant. I disagree when somebody would say Prāṇāyāma is the science of death, it is rather the science of true life, the real support from within and learning how to be anchored in that rather than all the fluctuations of this body/mind organism. When that finally happens there are many records in the ancient text of people who could hold their breath for hours on end and when they get really advanced, it just spontaneously stopped (Kevalakumbhaka), but one is still very much present in ones body/mind although absorbed in a different kind of matter.

Hope this will be helpful, for more information on Prāṇāyāma i would look up 2nd chapter of Haṭha Yoga Pradīpika or Yoga Tārāvalī by Śhaṅkaracārya.


Posted by: Alex | 2008-07-13 18:27:50


In the Buddha slogans, there is a discussion regarding the notion that death is always near. Generally, people do not pay much attention to this fact....re: we all will die....
The slogan goes on to point out our these days we have no problem talking about sex, going to porn...but feel very uncomfortable talking or thinking about death.

I like the way you have put it Alex...re: the science of true life....The trouble is most of us are living with tonnes of illusions, all the stuff of our conditioning...so Yoga, yes, helps to bring up in touch the WHOLE picture and not a few snap shots here and there.

it's like the German poet Rilke said. That is, far too often we only come to know one small corner of our own existence. As one gets older, this room or space gets smaller and smaller. If you look around you will see how people come to hoard their values, distrust everyone and generally build more fences to keep everyone out.

To break down these barriers, the armour around our hearts and minds....is like death. Each day something should die....re: old habits, bad thoughts, etc....

Posted by: Heather | 2008-07-20 01:08:46


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